Friday, March 07, 2014

Off Road

Elisa Amoruso's film Off Road, which is playing in London as part of the Cinema Made in Italy festival, is an intriguing, puzzling documentary which raises questions about identity and constructed lives.

At the centre of it is Beatrice, previously known as Pino, a mechanic with a lovely life shared with Marianna and the latter's son Daniele. Beatrice is quite matter-of-fact about her transition from life as Pino and is a boisterous character, dressing in bright pinks and always in search of a new dress. She is also head over heels in love with Marianna, explaining how she set eyes on her and immediately professed her love and her desire to take her home.

Marianna, for her part, is more reticent, and I noticed after the film ended, that she never declared her love for Beatrice. In fact, she didn't refer to Beatrice as Beatrice or even she, calling her Love and Darling, and in her interviews consistently referring to Beatrice using male pronouns. Oh, dear. Despite Beatrice's emphatic embracing of a female gender, those around her consistently named her as male, including her mother and Daniele, who had claimed her as Dad, despite meeting her after her transition. They seem to regard her more as a man who cross-dresses and Beatrice as the personification of this identity.

How does Beatrice manage this contradiction? Well, she seems not to acknowledge it, preferring to dwell on her skill as a mechanic (the team she works for "never spoke about" her transition), and tend to her ill dog, Kira, as well as her menagerie of farm animals in what seems to be a rural idyll.

As the film develops, it turns out Beatrice has run away from a previous life, including a child who is heard but not seen, and the story takes a bit of a sad turn (even the dog sub-plot turns sour). Beatrice appears as not such a carefree soul, but one burdened by unresolved issues and a bit of anger, if determined to claim her space on the road.

Elisa Amoruso will appear at the screening of Off Road on 8 March for a Q&A.

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