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by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel

grade: 8.5

The little One is a contemporary fairytale that could happen today, just as it could have happened yesterday. A timeless fairytale set in a world where time itself seems to be, unfortunately, completely limited.

An unexpected surprise

The world of the circus and everything it represents have always fascinated directors Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel. Used to tell us through images of worlds destined, in one way or another, to vanish forever, the two authors first talked about this environment in 2009, when they made the feature film The little One, the first chapter of a trilogy dedicated, precisely, to circus, presented at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section, and which would be followed by The Shine of Day (2012) and Mister Universo (2016).

A particular characteristic that distinguishes this trilogy (but also all of Covi and Frimmel’s other fictional films) is an extreme realism thanks to which, as we immediately feel part of the worlds they tell with affection and reverence, we no longer know where reality ends and fiction itself begins. The same applies to The little One, in which a group of non-professional actors (whom we will also meet in the subsequent films of the trilogy) takes us by the hand into their world, through a tender and sensitive story in which important moral dilemmas are not lacking.

Everything begins in Rome’s San Basilio district. Patti (Patrizia Gerardi) is a woman in her fifties who works in a circus and lives in a caravan. One day, while looking for her dog, she meets by chance a little girl of about two years old who has been left alone in the playground. Her mother has abandoned her there, but, as she wrote in a letter, she intends to go and get her back soon. Patti decides to take the child with her and gradually everyone in her environment becomes attached to her, including her husband Walter (Walter Saabel), who initially intends to call the police, and young Tairo (Tairo Caroli), also abandoned by his parents when he was a child and who lives with the two protagonists. Everything, little by little, seems to be going well. But how long can such ephemeral happiness last?

The little One, therefore, is a contemporary fairytale that could happen today, just as it could have happened yesterday. A timeless fairytale set in a world where time seems to be, unfortunately, completely limited. Young Asia has become the circus mascot and, thanks to the care of Patti, Tairo and Walter, is happy in this new environment and would like to stay there forever. Yet there are numerous difficulties that those who live there have to face every day. Above all, economic hardship and lack of work, always commonplace. So much beauty along with the cruel reality of a world that few can say they really know.

And so, in The little One, the camera of Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel shows us all this without any filter. Faithfully following Cesare Zavattini’s theories, the two directors have found the winning solution to make their stories incredibly alive and pulsating on the movie screen, giving us, along with funny and at times even hilarious moments (as when, for example, Patti scolds her little dog for running away), powerfully moving and heartbreaking scenes. Just as it happens when no one knows how long young Asia can remain in that world so dear to her.

Original title: La Pivellina
Directed by: Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel
Country/year: Italy, Austria / 2009
Running time: 101’
Genre: drama
Cast: Patrizia Gerardi, Tairo Caroli, Asia Crippa, Walter Saabel, Tailor Intruglio, Pierino Atzeni, Gigliola Crippa, Mirco Crippa
Screenplay: Tizza Covi
Cinematography: Rainer Frimmel
Produced by: Vento Film

Info: the page of The little One on iMDb; the page of The little One on the website of the Austrian Film Commission