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SHORT FOCUS 2021: Original Sin [Paolo Sinigaglia, Italy, 2020]

Drunk and jealous, a man enters his wife’s painting studio unveiling one of her canvases, which depicts a man embraced by a fire and the outline of a woman. The man penetrates her world and her mind in a desperate effort to understand her. No doubt this is the aim of Original Sin: an invitation to inhabit the minds of two creatives, solely from the perspective of their art.

Communication is limited in Adamo and Cassandra’s relationship – tortured by their bond and their work, they talk about anything but what is bothering them. Adamo is a struggling writer, overwhelmed by his inability to sell off his novel, a psychological analysis of human selfishness. Cassandra is a painter, determined to “win over” curators and project her art into the world. Their relationship is fractured, marked by suspected betrayals, an obsession with their respective projects, and an apparent inability to understand and work with one another. Adamo imagines an affair, but Cassandra’s hollow gaze betrays nothing. Caught in a whirlwind of jealousy and confusion, the two bring their relationship to breaking point.

Lighting is especially important to Original Sin’s atmosphere: Adamo returns home to a dismal living room, lit only by his partner’s cigarette; flames crackle in the house’s fireplace as Cassandra is fondled by an anonymous figure. Is it a flashback or a hallucination? More importantly, whose is it? Sinigaglia’s tale repeatedly tricks and deceives, questioning constantly what it has previously established as fact. What we believe to be Adamo’s reality is Cassandra’s fiction, what is apparently a hallucination turns out to be the truth.

The premise of Original Sin is simple, and yet the fairytale tone of the narrative, not dissimilar at times to Tale of Tales [Matteo Garrone, Italy, 2015], gives it an almost supernatural air, so that neither of the protagonists – elegant, mysterious Cassandra, and sensitive, tortured Adamo – can be trusted. The theme and title are, of course, in reference to humanity’s first wrongdoing, the consumption of the apple, an archaic story that has pitted Adam against Eve, man against woman for centuries. In the end, the question that remains – which Sinigaglia’s film exploits greatly through fantastical settings, illusionary atmospheres, and its characters’ preoccupations – is who is to blame?


'Original Sin' was part of the Official Selection at Short Focus Film Festival 2021.


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