SPETTACOLO Film Review – The Town that Plays Itself

Director Andrea Cresti

The Town that Plays Itself

It’s winter in Tuscany and the tiny town of Monticchiello gathers together to discuss the annual Poor Theater play, or "spettacolo". This small village in the Italian countryside began a fifty-year tradition under Germany occupancy. The residents, threatened by Nazi soldiers and Italian fascists, survived the horrors of the Second World War with deep mental scars. They banded together to comprehend this event and heal their trauma through theater.


“At the end of the play we all had the feeling that this was the right instrument for talking to each other and saying what we thought of the problem,” says the director of the play, who was then in his twenties.

From then on, the village tells a new story every year. These plays - starring themselves, their story, and their town – are a platform for discussions about crises. They come together to discuss what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. Director and Writer, Andrea, sits listening to their fears and complaints. His pencil moves quickly over a pad of paper. This play will open discussions about the important things. It will be how they will move forward as a community.

Spettacolo Delves into Daily Lives

In this captivating documentary, Directors Jeff Malberg and Chris Shellen give a glance into the daily struggles of the residents of Monticchiello as they begin this year’s rehearsals. We come to know each of them as intimate friends. Though you have to pay careful attention to catch all their names, you will remember their faces. Mournful and haunting, Spettacolo   and preserves the story of a profound tradition that might disappear.

The aging population of the village feels the world closing in around them. Alzheimers, economic depression, and modernization are taking a massive toll on the Monticchiello they once knew. Theater, always at the center of their identity, has become a second job to many residents. Economic pressures and lack of funding have left them with little time and resources to put on the kinds of productions they managed in the past. “There’s not more money for culture” says Andre.


This is why they have chosen to make their play about the end of the world.

Malberg and Shellen show the entire process of writing and producing this work from the arguments at town hall to tensions at rehearsals. The play they are writing is not some frivolous diversion. It is the past, present, and future laid out upon a wooden platform. This is how they answer the hard questions, how they talk about tragedy and the things that scare them.  It is how they will understand the end of an era.

Spettacolo is both awe-inspiring and eye-opening. The high-definition shots and restored photographs used in this film add extra layers of realism to the story. We experience these trials and heartbreaks with the residents like we are part of their community. Though this is not a drama or a fiction, it holds our attention with its masterful cinematography.  Anyone interested in theater, history, or European culture will enjoy this documentary.

Director Andrea Cresti

*This documentary is entirely in Italian, with English subtitles.

When and Where:

* Spettacolo will be shown at one day viewings in the following locations:

Quad Cinema, New York, NY. August 23 , 2017

Parkway Theatre, Baltimore, MD. September 8, 2017

Music Hall, Beverly Hills, CA. September 29, 2017

Monica Film Center, Santa Monica, CA. September 29, 2017 

Wexner Film Center, Columbus, OH. October 21, 2017

Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA. November 3, 2017

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Winchester, VA. November 8, 2017

International Film Series, Boulder, CO. December 2, 2017


 For more information visit: the Grasshopper Film website.

*All photos courtesy of Grasshopper Film


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