Ladro Di Bambini (Stolen Children), Il
Directed by Gianni Amelio. Starring Enrico Lo Verso, Valentina Scalici, Giuseppe Ieracitano. (1992, NR, 114 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 16, 1993
Set in and around Milan, Italy, Il Ladro de Bambini follows the journey of a young, idealistic army officer (Verso) and the two young children he is charged with escorting to a state-run orphanage. Pressed into a life of prostitution at the age of 11, Rosetta (Scalici) and her younger brother Luciano (Ieracitano) are to be sent by train to Milan to live as wards of the state until permanent homes are found for them. Antonio, their escort on the journey, is at first aloof towards these sullen street kids, but as the days pass (and as the children are mysteriously denied entrance into the Catholic orphanage, possibly on the grounds of Rosetta's former occupation), this strange trio find themselves opening up to each other, almost in the form of a family. Director Amelio manages to keep what might otherwise have been a relentlessly grim tale from degenerating into sheer bleakness seemingly by sheer force of will. The camera repeatedly shows us the grime, the squalor that surrounds not only the dispossessed children, but also the entire country: Italy, it seems, is falling apart, the families along with the infrastructure, and Amelio drives the point home again and again. Scalici and Ieracitano -- and this is the debut film from both of them -- are less like young actors playing parts than they are the characters themselves. It's rare to see children in films and be completely overwhelmed by the honesty of their performances (Macaulay Culkin may be overwhelming, but not in terms of talent), but Scalici and Ieracitano are briliant here. Despite (and occasionally because of) the film's resolutely dour staging, Amelio's sad, lonely film affects the viewer in subtle, quiet ways. You'll find yourself thinking this one over for much longer than you expected.