TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! The French master director Jean-Luc Godard believed passionately that “Everything was cinema.” He, of course, did this in many moments in his work using non-actors and filming in live situations with a small crew. The result was some brilliant features with a touch of realism, immediacy, and intimacy that flowed effortlessly. Writer-director-star Sara Summa’s Arthur&Diana enters that company with a subtle, humorous, often contemplative story of everyday life. Life becomes little dramas that connect into a joyous moment of reflection and thanks. Goddard mainly worked in black and white film stock out of cost, while this German production is photographed in glorious, subdued colour.
Arthur (Robin Summa) & Diana (Sara Summa} are brother and sister. With Diana’s two-year-old son Lupo (Lupo Piero Summa), the trio leave Berlin for Paris to do the overdue safety inspection of their old Renault. The vehicle is of special significance since it symbolizes their youth and the passage of time. The journey is not relaxing at all, as it becomes more of a cruise down memory lane. Revelations of childhood and how Arthur and Diana clash with the present day come out as Lupo needs constant care. As with children, the little one demands sweets, food, and even, at one point, to have certain music played in the vehicle.
Arthur&Diana features a documentary style so the viewer becomes a combination eavesdropping companion, voyeur, and interloper depending on the moment the camera intrudes on. Arthur, who is younger, with a carefree air, is the opposite of the cool, pragmatic, married Diana. When the car is acting up, she gets the light and checks herself, only to discover a flat tire.
“Together with Diana’s two-old son Lupo, the trio leave Berlin for Paris to do the overdue safety inspection…”
The film is a visual and auditory treat with a beautiful score, lovely unobtrusive sets and backgrounds that make one feel you are on the trip, and the ever-present theme of eating. Everyone eats in seemingly endless moments that often lead to a romantic interlude at a party for Diana to keep Lupo happy during adult time at get-togethers. Sound is also a key element, as we get the crunch of food, the swilling of wine, and even a housefly tormenting Arthur.
Little moments of drama build into the togetherness of family and the bonds of friendship as the unknown actors play off each other well. Diana has a rather amusing encounter with a small weapon at a lake while trying to look tough. Sara Summa hits the comedic beats well. Robin Summa makes his character rather sweet. The police stop the siblings on the way and find the safety check has not been done. Arthur talks the police into letting them go because they are heading to a funeral.
Arthur&Diana has a freedom and flow to the story, like the French New Wave titles that clearly influenced this. The camera observes and offers us, the audience, to stay participating up to the last shot. Real family provides a unique way to tell a story, with this one being semi-fictional. Still, the immediacy of the actors is a joy to behold right up to the song that plays over the credits. You may find yourselves joining in and looking at your little section of the world with a smile.
Arthur&Diana screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.
"…has a freedom and flow to the story..."