Pieces of a Woman

Realizing that we are alone, individual pieces in the immense puzzle of human incommunicability.
Enzo Vignoli

The literal translation of "Pieces of a Woman" in Italian is "Pezzi di una donna." The film's title is dramatically effective, foreshadowing the protagonist's breakdown. Unity crumbles because the individual parts that make it up can no longer find the other pieces to fit. The use of the harsh and stiff word "pieces" brings to mind the expression "falling apart," although the term implies here the sense of a physical and mental breakdown that time and fatigue have taken away.


Martha Weiss' detachment from her sense of reality occurs through the 23-minute-long sequence plan, in which we witness her giving birth at home, with its rapid descent into tragedy. The dramatic intensity of those never-ending moments rivets the viewer's attention. It is impossible to define a consistent thread describing the potential emotional reactions of viewers to that scene and all that follows. From that moment on, the protagonist realizes that she is alone, and in front of the screen she is but a single piece in the immense puzzle of human incommunicability.


Poster of the movie "Pieces of a Woman"

The woman will lose the connection that allowed her to manage her complicated personal relationships with her reference figures: her partner and her mother. The former will not be able to perceive the tragedy in consonance with Martha, dabbling in alcohol and drugs and losing himself in an illusory romantic liaison, perhaps paying for an unreal and, therefore, irrefutable hypothesis: “I wish we'd met earlier," he will say to Martha's available cousin and lawyer. Shia LaBeouf's performance is almost subdued (therefore perfect).


More complex and difficult is the confrontation with her mother Elizabeth, both pathetic and paternalist, impeccably interpreted by Ellen Burstyn. The actress credibly plays the ungrateful role of a mother, at first unable to prevent her daughter from feeling inadequate towards her and then replacing her in erasing the figure of Sean, not considering him capable of offering Martha a life worthy of the name.


Martha is left with nothing but to hole up in an alienating but comforting refuge: a ghost wandering Boston's gray and frozen streets wrapped in sensory absence with the surrounding mood.


In this painful story the man seems not to exist, but the woman seems almost to have no past. It is as if there is no humanity, unable to give a meaning to existence, nothing more than a giant marionette whose multiple threads are pulled by a scornful and indifferent hand. But the protagonist, unsatisfied with the search for a scapegoat for her human tragedy, manages to get out of that shadow and will acquit the midwife who assisted her of the charges of manslaughter and personal negligence. Above all, she will show her mother - with whom she reconnects the threads of a broken relationship - that she wants to return to life and that she knows how to trace her own life path.


Scene from the movie "Pieces of a Woman" with Shia Labeouf and Vanessa Kirby

In the end, however, hope is found in nature. The apple seeds planted by Martha will give rise to the trees on which her daughter Lucy will climb, living her happy life. But there is no consolation in such a conclusion, nor an explicit commitment to the need for a green transformation of the world, which so many are talking about today, perhaps without having the visionary capacity to achieve it. If anything, it seems to confirm the implicit helplessness of the human being (no presence of a father) and, perhaps, the impossibility of hoping for the action of a providential external hand.


One would say that the story transcends the importance of any historical and temporal connection and, as such, seems to have a universal, absolute value. However, the use of a specific technological data backdates the action by several years, and this transposition to the times when photographic film was still used was perhaps necessary to make the authors' immersion in their own autobiographical events more meaningful.


The film - a co-production between Canada, the U.S. and Hungary - can be viewed on Netflix and is not recommended for children under 14. Presented in competition at the 77th Venice Film Festival, which awarded Vanessa Kirby the Volpi Prize for best actress, “Pieces of a Woman”, directed by Kornél Mundruczó and screenplayed by Kata Weber, is widely considered the possible recipient of the Oscar for best foreign film.


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