How Ermanno Olmi Found Grace in the Daily Labors of Italians

Jun 13, 2019 458

BY: A.O. Scott

Ermanno Olmi’s first fictional feature, “Il Posto,” shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1961, was released in the United States two years later with the incongruously noisy title “The Sound of Trumpets.” That name doesn’t entirely come out of nowhere; it echoes a phrase uttered by the mother of the main character, Domenico Cantoni, a young man starting out at the very bottom of a large Milanese firm and hoping to rise to the lower middle. If he stays up too late reading, she warns him, not even trumpets will wake him in time to get to his job.

In Italian, “Il Posto” more or less means “The Job,” but the faint biblical echo (of Jericho, of Judgment Day) in the English version isn’t entirely out of place, even though the film itself is notably quiet and gentle. If there is drudgery in store for Domenico, there is also music and subtle but striking intimations of divine grace.

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