Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must be the Place is a beautiful film featuring an exceptional performance from Sean Penn. A casual viewer is ought to look upon it as a cocktail of a road movie, a detective movie and a Nazi-criminal-hunt movie. But a keen viewer would be able to see through this facade discovering a deeply meaningful work of cinema. The movie can most aptly be looked upon as a soul searching journey undertaken by an individual (named Cheyenne) overwhelmed by his colossal fear of one day coming face to face with the reality of his own hollow existence. He wears a weird makeup like a mask to hide his true self from the rest of the world (and from himself). Thus, in a way Cheyenne manages to keep himself well protected in this cocoon of his own choosing. His life has a comatose feeling (except when playing handball with his wife) to it. And to watch Cheyenne drag his body (while walking) is like witnessing the drudgery of a man doomed to wander in fetters till eternity.
This Must Be the Place is a testament to Sorrentino’s range as a filmmaker. Watching the film makes one wonder whether one is watching only one film or a bunch of different films seamlessly blended into one. Sean Penn is a revelation in the role of Cheyenne, which in my opinion also happens to be his greatest performance till date. It’s just incredible how great filmmakers push their actors to the limit and invariably get the best out of them (even when that actor is someone like Penn who has delivered so many memorable performances during the course of his long and successful career). Luca Bigazzi’s cinematography is breathtaking to watch and the music by David Byrne and Will Oldham is simply hypnotic. The film is replete with visual symbolism and allegories and it may require multiple viewings for one to be in a position to appreciate it fully. The movie is recommended to all those who appreciate intelligent and thought-provoking cinema.
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