Taking place almost entirely in a small Italian seaside town, Valerio’s Mieli’s Ten Winters sparsely charts the ebb-and-flow journey of two friends over the course of 10 winters. On her way to university, Camilla (Isabella Ragonese) boards a ferry with a backpack and a tall, slender lamp. She is soon acquainted with the only young gentleman left on the boat, Silvestro (Michele Riondino), who flirtatiously steals her scarf and hat, wearing them as his own. Silvestro maneuvers his way into staying the night at Camilla’s tiny, family house. Over the course of the film, the two bond further, but nearly ever consummate the underlying, romantic desires right at the surface.
Ten Winters proves to be a realistic statement about love, as the interplay between two, ever-changing adults doesn’t always lead to the desirable result: one winter finds Camilla and Silvestro at the verge of declaring their love for the other, the next finds them purposefully avoiding each other at a farmer’s market. The staggered structure does prove novel at first, as longing grows between the two over time and we meet them at a different point in their life, connecting again after a year has passed. On the other hand, though, the time-jumping narrative could also work against the film’s attempts at painting a cohesive link between the two: In awkward fashion, Silvestro surprises Camilla in Russia where she went abroad to study, and discovers she has been living with a Russian man, a moment highly disjointed and unbelievable, since the two hadn’t even spoken in six months before that juncture; the sequence feels forced, and breaks from the looseness of the film’s tender, subtle tone, coming off as only a plot device to further drive them apart.
The ultimate strengths of the picture lie in the way the actors mold their characters over the leaping time periods, illustrating the subtle differences of time passing; when Silvestro tracks Camilla down at her father’s place later in the film, the slight ticks and mannerisms Ragonese employs paint a delicate picture of Camilla at the edge, quietly unstable. Putting the more ludicrous scenarios aside, Ten Winters manages to capture a beautifully painful, reflective push and pull between two souls who keep finding their way back to each other.
Ten Winters will play on June 5 and 10 as part of this year’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. For details about the festival, including ticketing information, click here.