Witnessing a double suicide in an opening scene is normally the preserve of horror movies or mystery thrillers, here it is an understated moment of drama in another of Ferzan Ozpetek’s examination of personal histories. Out on DVD now, in Sacred Heart Barbora Bobulova delivers a award-winning performance as Irene, a property developer who realises there is more to life than squeezing every last penny from transforming old buildings into rabbit-hutch flats. Her journey will bring her closer to those she would normally avoid in the street on the way and, in a way, literally shedding her former identity.
As a workaholic property developer, Irene takes on a restoration project that will force her to explore her past; the last person to live there was her mother, whom she barely remembers. Her last actions were to fill the walls with symbols, possibly an ancient language, but Irene wishes to transform the property into 30 luxury flats at the behest of her aunt. Requesting the words be translated before the work begins she encounters with a young girl, Benny (Camille Dugay Comencini) seemingly surviving on the streets by stealing. As Irene peers into this life of poverty and the pressure to eradicate her mother’s lost words forever is heaped on by work, her priorities start to change radically.
Strong links to Ozpetek’s previous work and is evocatively filmed.
Ozpetek has been infatuated by buildings before — in Harmam: Turkish Bath (1997) and La Fate Ignoranti (2001) the Turkish director used them as spaces personal and life changing to his central characters. Here the building acts more as the crossroad for Irene as she struggles to erase her history from it in order to carry on her business of turning it into flats. As Benny provides Irene with the chance to care for a child as her mother never did with her, she grows increasingly attached to a room she barely looked at when first viewing the property. It is this emotional attachment to people and places that gives Sacred Heart strong links to Ozpetek’s previous work and it is evocatively filmed to bring these to the fore. The film turns towards the religious act of sacrifice in ultimately restoring Irene’s detachment from the past and in doing so seems to want to connect with the act of worship in a religious space. While the slow effects of the new experiences Irene faces build in an engaging and believable way, there is a lack of emotional pull at times that is necessary to truelycare for her. As a result, for all its links to worthy causes, Sacred Heart finishes short of pulling the emotional strings it hopes to play on.
Extras: Director’s commentary offering Ozpetek’s insight into the movie.
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