366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
DIRECTED BY: Daniel Contaldo, Hannah Swayze
FEATURING: Giorgia Tomasi, Lorenzo Passaniti, Caterina Fornaciai
PLOT: A group of Italian 20-somethings explore their childhoods and psychological ailments via avant-garde theater exercises.
The most meandering film I’ve ever seen:
Caverna, Caverna, Caverna, Caverna!
The most grousing and wibble-cam there’s ever been—
Caverna, Caverna, Caverna, Caverna, Caverna, Caverna, Caverna.
I’ve just watched a film named Caverna…
By now I have largely made my point, but in an effort to give this whatsit a fairer shake, let me lay down some less flippant remarks. With dream flashbacks and otherwise linear progression, Contaldo and Swayze (which would make a great pair of names on a P.I.s’ office door) tell a story about a group of young, aspiring actors—with a focus on country-bred Lorenzo and Catholic Giorgia—honing their performance-art chops while battling inner demons. Giorgia was a disappointment to her folks, more interested in playing in the dirt than in bending to a rigid religious hierarchy; Lorenzo was a disappointment to his father, wanting to wander the nearby hills and fields as opposed to… well, it wasn’t quite clear just what exactly the possibly-carpenter patriarch wanted from the boy. Guiding Giorgia, Lorenzo, et al. is Alba, an instructor who isn’t above playing favorites; and who, to me, seemed to be making things up as she went along. (Mind you, this may have been the point—or I may have missed the point.)
Caverna is, at least, only an hour long, and during my viewing exhibited the good sense to slip in a twist of tone right around the time I had resigned myself to staring vacantly at the screen. The neophyte performers acquitted themselves adequately, but forget any story (something I don’t actually demand of a film anymore)—there isn’t even a committed pursuit of any particular concept, or even mood. Sure, sure, we get it: childhood traumas, particularly emotional ones, are serious business and can seriously fracture the victims. But the two featured youths seemed more disaffected and occasionally annoyed than particularly addled. They pursue their career goals (“the true performer paints with the eyes of his mind!”), party vaguely, chat idly, and smoke prodigiously in front of charming, down-at-the-heel Old World backdrops. The dreams they relate to one another in class drip with heavy symbolism (of course, it may just be that my own dreams are never nearly so psychologo-poetical), and Lorenzo’s burst of anger—that twist of tone I mentioned—stems neither from anything much apparent, nor from much that might reasonably be guessed at.
As the directors swap between the hazy saturation of dream-reminiscences and the cinema verité of the real lives and theater-ness of the troupe, there’s just enough filmic flair and character charm to keep your attention. But you will be relieved when the timer goes off, and you can move on with your life.
(At the time of this writing, Caverna was available free on Tubi and other free-streaming services).
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Things take a weird turn, and this ‘theater workshop’ becomes the stage for a surrealistic fantasy that’s hard to explain. To be fair, if “weird for the sake of being weird” is your thing, then you may well love this experience. I could appreciate what they were attempting; unfortunately, it didn’t land for me.”–Chris Jones, Overly Honest Movie Reviews (contemporaneous)