By Makenzie Rogers
Paolo Sorrentino’s 2021 film È stata la mano di Dio, better known as The Hand of God, is a coming of age story following seventeen-year-old Fabietto Schisa in 1980s Naples, Italy. This autobiographical piece features moments of lust, loss, and longing that the audience can easily relate to. Although the plot is not action-packed, viewers come away with an understanding of Sorrentino’s upbringing and admiration for film similar to Fabietto’s.
Fabietto (played by Filippo Scotti) is an introverted teenager who has a love for music, the arts, and soccer player, Diego Maradona. He lives with his eccentric parents, Maria and Saverio, as well as his older brother, Marchino, who is Fabietto’s total opposite. His extended family also plays an important role, especially his Aunt Patrizia who is his first major sexual awakening. His crass relatives provide a contrast to his rather demure demeanor, leaving the audience to wonder why Fabietto didn’t develop the same personality.
The majority of the movie focuses on the faults of Fabietto’s family and highlights their flaws in an extremely negative light; this is not meant to be a nostalgia piece for Sorrentino. His relatives are generally ill-mannered but some pass the morally-gray line and are truly awful people, leaving very little to question why he wouldn’t want to look back at these years fondly. When watching all of the family dynamics unfold, the viewers begin to recognize that Fabietto is the glue of the family.
As an emotionally-charged plot, one cannot help but empathize with Fabietto as he is struggling after a major loss. He’s trying to figure out how to grow up and become an artist while grappling with his emotions; his vulnerability is a looming presence. Fabietto doesn’t grieve until the latter half of the film, but Diego Maradona’s win and his talk with director Antonio Capuano save his life in a way. Maradona’s win in the 1986 World Cup–known as “The Hand of God” goal–became a positive core memory during a time of overwhelming sadness. The conversation with Capuano places him on the correct path for becoming a filmmaker, as Capuano opens his eyes as to what it truly means to be an artist.
The Hand of God is where we can see Sorrentino’s love for film influence his directorial choices, as there are several nods to Federico Fellini and Fabietto’s conversation with Antonio Capuano towards the end of the movie. The warmer tones and contrasting colors provide interesting visuals. The lingering shots showcasing Naples are meant to feel poetic but the shots do slow the pacing down a bit–almost as though you’re in a dreamlike state. Although this is not Sorrentino’s most ambitious film, it’s still a stunning piece of work.
The Hand of God accomplishes its role as a memoir for Sorrentino, where it looks into his relatives’ lives and how he ended up choosing filmmaking. The movie is not for everyone, as it is mainly character-focused and the plot is loosely-defined but going through the emotions with Fabietto is a worthwhile experience. The Hand of God is nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards, and if awarded, this will be Sorrentino’s second win in this category.