Culture /

“The Hand of God”: The Sorrentino Movie I Always Carry With Me

“Do not disunite, do not ever disunite! […] I didn’t immediately give myself a rational explanation for that line, but I grabbed it and put it in my pocket.”

Paolo Sorrentino’s 2021 film The Hand of God: I first saw it at the Venice Film Festival last September. My friend and I narrowly managed to book two seats at the 10 p.m. show. It was a slightly crisp evening, and there was a light sea breeze caressing our backs. We had hurriedly downed two spritzes with Select, voraciously eating the two olives that are usually in the drinks. “Let’s hurry up, we’re going to be late!” I hoped to not fall asleep, as I was very curious about this film that was already being talked about so much and was among the most anticipated of the kermesse (“festival”). The Casino Hall, despite the anti-Covid regulations (one seat yes and one seat no), was full. In the time it took to let everyone in, darkness fell in the room and the light of the projector came to life. 

I remember the religious silence with which we let ourselves be transported into Sorrentino’s universe, into that story that was so personal, lacerating and painful, but also so damn beautiful. During the cult scene between Fabietto Schisa and the director Antonio Capuano, my eyes were already moist and my throat tightened at the sight of His Majesty Vesuvius, taken from one of its most beautiful angles, surrounded by the immensity of the Gulf of Naples. “Non ti disunire,” thunders Capuano, “Non ti disunire mai!” (“Do not disunite, do not ever disunite!”) And I felt his words hit straight to my stomach as if he were talking to me. I didn’t immediately give myself a rational explanation for that line, but I grabbed it and put it in my pocket.

Don’t be disunited. Don’t forget who you are. Don’t forget that sky; that sea; that desire to eat the world; that willpower that comes from your heart, but also from that land that raised you–your mother, but also your stepmother. It would like so much to keep you tied to it, always, but it is forced to surrender and let you go. Do not disunite. Stay true to yourself and your beliefs. With your words and your soul. It doesn’t matter if others like you; you must stay connected to your home like a tree to its roots. The elements will want to tear you away, but you aim your gaze straight at the horizon and never lose sight of it. Integrate yourself with your values and your existence. Don’t disunite yourself. Don’t lose yourself; don’t take the step that is bigger than you; wait and be patient. You don’t lack courage. It’s okay to be devoured by impatience, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. My grandma always said, “Slowly, slowly you’ll see that everything will take its rightful place.” And I have built a ritual on this long-term vision, a modus operandi to be applied every day. Because when you set out to build a different present, you have to create a solid foundation. 

Don’t be disunited. Always chew your dialect, pronounce vowels as you always have, tread on consonants, and don’t lose the musicality of your speech. Gesture and grasp the reality around you, because it is known that if you explain concepts with your hands, they are better understood. Don’t get disunited. I have my mom’s perseverance and my dad’s curiosity. Grandma’s generosity and grandpa’s integrity. They are always with me, part of my every little cell, my every breath. They look through my eyes, smile with my mouth, and talk with my belly. Don’t get disunited. Home is waiting for you; it’s not going away. Sometimes the call is so strong that you can’t put it off. It is a cord that is born and dies with us. Beautiful Milan, beautiful Rome, but what about home? If I am what I am, I owe it to her, who put me together piece by piece, like a puzzle. When you come back, she welcomes you and smiles as soon as she peeps out. You would like so much to put down that suitcase and unpack it, but maybe it’s not time yet. Don’t be disunited. It is not a warning, nor a reproach. It is a guide, a line to follow. Perhaps sometimes it is right to lose it, only to find it again. It is the phrase that is whispered in our ears when we lose our bearings and don’t know where to go.

That evening, we left the theater in need of two more spritzes with Select, but in the end, we remained silent, waiting for either of us to be able to say something with common sense. A whirlwind of emotions, hard to put together, stuck in the pits of our stomachs and came out, trivially, with tears. We wandered around for a while, listening to Pino Daniele on headphones and then slowly returned home to digest those sounds and images. It’s been eight months since I first saw it, and in that time, I’ve watched it four more times between the movie theater and Netflix. Some of those jumbled thoughts now have a body, others remain in limbo, but I don’t think you can always understand everything about a movie. Every morning when I wake up, I look at the bulletin board in my room where I hung the mini-poster of the film, carefully torn from one of the magazines of the Biennale. As I gaze at the poster, I feel at home–I can’t wait to go back.