TIFF 2023 | Kidnapped (Marco Bellocchio, Italy/France/Germany) — Special Presentations

By Manuela Lazic.

After The Traitor (2019) and the series Exterior Night (2022), Marco Bellocchio, aged 83, continues to explore the darker stories in Italy’s past. With Kidnapped, he turns to the sins of the Catholic church in the 19th century with the true story of young Edgardo Mortara (played beautifully as a child by Enea Sala), who was taken away from his Jewish family after it was discovered that his Catholic nurse had secretly baptized him when he was ill, fearing for his soul. In the aftermath, the Church decided to separate the boy from his family and raise him, arguing that he belonged to them now. Bellocchio manages to translate the horror of this forced separation through imagery and intensity out of a home-invasion style horror movie (a scenario put across powerfully by his actors). More interesting, though, is the way Bellocchio fights hard against modern and more secular sensibilities to try to make the family’s surprising capitulation and acceptance of their (and their son’s) fate somewhat understandable. The Mortaras are giving in to anti-Semitism, but also, more simply and shockingly, to a larger set of rules: religion is not only an aspect of national identity, but a political value that shapes society and must therefore be kept in order. To this writer, Kidnapped had all the characteristics of science-fiction, despite being a true story. Amazingly, Edgardo grows up to be a model priest, and finally confronts the impossibility of his position—a realization that Bellocchio depicts with maximum pathos.