Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti are ambitious film-makers at least, but the baffling Spira Mirabilis is too self-absorbed to be of much appeal to audiences. Touted as a “visual symphony” the film attempts to explore the human fascination with immortality. It is crucial that, much like different sections of an orchestra, these disparate parts work together, yet they don’t.
The film veers wildly across the world, uniting its disparate observations through the Aristotelian elements of earth, air, water and fire. A Japanese researcher studies tiny jellyfish, while musicians craft steel drums. The film also touches on Native American history and the construction of classical statues. In attempting to tie these things together the film-makers baffle their audience.
Films don’t have to be explicitly understood to work, but there must at least be a kernel of interest for the audience to connect with. Spira Mirabilis fails to offer this, making for a film that is alienating to those that watch it.
Part of the reason for this is the way the film portrays people with such detachment. Prolonged periods of silence and frequently obscured shots of people make for a film that feels unbearably lonely. The sole reprieve is when the Japanese researcher sings his song about the immortal jellyfish that he has spent years studying. Yet even this rare moment for emotional connection is muddied through the use of double exposure. For a film that is purportedly interested in humanity, it’s a massive problem that humans feel so far away.
What spares Spira Mirabilis a one star review are its occasional moments of beauty. A nurse singing to new-born babies and microscopic images of jellyfish are all enchanting images. In Spira Mirabilis, the connection between images are far too remote to be harmonious.
DIRECTORS: Massimo D’Anolfi, Martina Parenti
WRITERS: Massimo D’Anolfi, Martina Parenti
SYNOPSIS: Award-winning documentary filmmakers Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti present a mesmerizing tribute to humankind’s aspirations for immortality by showing us a portrait of our efforts to overcome (or accept) our own limits.