The Italian (L’Italien)

08 Jul

Dino Fabrizzi (played by Kad Merad) is a successful and happy man living in Nice. He works for a prestige car dealership, he regularly drives around in a Maserati and he is on his way to a huge promotion at the company. In his personal life, his friends adore him and he has a very satisfying relationship with his beautiful girlfriend, Hélène (by Valérie Benguigui). By all accounts Dino’s life is complete… except – it isn’t. Dino Fabrizzi doesn’t exist – he is played out daily by Mourad Ben Saoud who presents Dino, a successful and competent Italian man, to the world. Mourad, a Moslem emigrant to France from Algeria, has fabricated Dino to distract everyone around him from his real Moslem heritage. This ruse works very well for several years; “Dino” is successful professionally and privately he regularly leaves Helene at weekends so that he can “travel back to Rome” to visit his family, but he really drives in the opposite direction to Marseilles, where his family await his arrival for the visit … supposedly off a plane from Rome. To his family, Mourad is a successful professional man living in Rome with a beautiful girlfriend and great life – and he flies to Marseilles regularly from Rome to see them. Confused? … that’s nothing compared to the utter mess Mourad/Dino finds himself in when during one visit to his family in Marseilles, his father (by Sid Ahmed Agoumi) is taken ill and asks Mourad/Dino to take his place and participate in the Islamic month of Ramadan this year in his place. Fine – except Mourad/Dino has no idea what this entails, nor what the impact of it will be on Dino’s life back in Nice. No eating during daylight hours, pray five times a day, no sex for a month … but Mourad/Dino decides he can do it …  how hard can it be?

This movie starts off as a light-hearted comedy – we watch as Dino enacts the fantasy life he has built in Nice, then chuckle to ourselves when the duplicity and lies unfold to cause Mourad/Dino to get himself into some fixes and short term challenges. But then the movie develops into something far more important and goes to some key issues of our society today – a man who feels he must deny his true heritage so that he isn’t assailed constantly by culturally insensitive and downright offensive racist remarks –  a man who pretends to be of another nationality and religion because he is convinced this will allay any pre-conceptions about his capability and professionalism. He lies to everyone for the same reason – he’s ashamed of who he really is. The drama explores this issue from several perspectives, which adds layers of interest and is useful. In the end, the key message is “be who you are and the people who know you, trust you and love you, will continue to do that”.  It’s thought-provoking – I’m not sure if it’s meant to be, but it is.

Made in 2010.  Directed by Olivier Baroux

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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Movies


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