Another entry for the Italian neorealism movement, Il Posto is a stark and upsetting display of working-class woes. A family struggling to fund itself are found in desperate times, so anguished in fact that their youngest son, Domenico Cantoni (Sandro Panseri), is willing to postpone his education to aid them. Director Ermanno Olmi takes us through the streets of Milan, a young man in pursuit of a job, and, inevitably, romance of an all but doomed variety. The glances to one another elicit a free-spirited love not found in the challenging streets of Italy, but two leading characters enjoying the independence of city life are showcased so extraordinarily well throughout Il Posto.
Panseri makes for a striking lead performer. His objective in this role isn’t for us to love or hate him, but to assimilate his story into our systems, for it is one that cinema has showcased for decades at a time. His relationship with a fellow employee, how he struggles and thrives in different portions of his life, Il Posto shows a vast array of experiences, some that will inevitably apply to the audience. Generalised portraits of everything from the working week to the flutters of romance that appear from across the street, Olmi captures a variety of topics and doesn’t overextend any of them. They’re pieced together with an endearing randomness, all loosely tying together.
The simplicity of Il Posto is perhaps its biggest draw. There are no grand swoops of the camera, no major storylines are pumped up with energetic irrationalism, it strikes a very clear, realistic chord. Such a tentative style of showcasing life, the necessity of the mundane given ample time to grow throughout this one. Charmless offices, stripped of all colour and charm, in its place a run of steady work that the leading character needs, but doesn’t want. His livelihood and happiness depend on temporary fixtures, a story as true today for so many as it was over fifty years ago. The timelessness of the piece is a prime example of just how marvellous a director Olmi is, his composition and variety showcase an exceptional slice of life, the lingering doubts creeping in to just about anyone present on screen.
What artistic benefits Il Posto can offer are resolute in discussing and presenting the many themes and details Olmi wishes to construct for his audience. He does so with tenacious respect for his characters, and an equal understanding for those that wish to spend some time following the life of Cantoni. Such appreciation for the normality of office work and the nine to five routine are stalwart factors, contributing to Il Posto with grace and style. Such positives would not be possible without the intense speed and charm of Olmi’s craft, who turns the brutal world of wage work into an engaged experience filled with heartbreak and hope.