Days and Clouds: Loving with Less
What luck! Days and Clouds, which was completed in 2007, contains a story that might have meant nothing to an American audience a year ago but means everything to us today. The story is about a middle-aged couple that hits hard times and swiftly slides from the bottom of the top of the middle class to the top of its bottom.
Set in Genoa (the city that gave us Christopher Columbus) and directed by Silvio Soldini, the movie opens with Else (Margherita Buy) delivering a rather dry lecture about the restoration of some ancient wall or ceiling with a work of art on it. After the lecture, her husband, Michele (Antonio Albanese), throws an opulent surprise party for her. All of Else's beautiful friends are there, talking, dancing, and drinking champagne. This party, however, is an illusion. What it's really about is not the good times but the end of their money. When the party is over, their comfortable way of life is over with it. Michele has lost his business to unscrupulous business partners; he can't find comparable work anywhere and has to sell their huge apartment. The two moodily move into a smaller apartment in a rougher part of Genoa. (Some applause must go to the set designer of this movie—in tone, size, and texture, the small apartment is exactly the kind of space that would accommodate a couple in the social slot that's one notch above poverty.)
The fallen businessman and his beautiful wife, the art restorer, go into a state of shock. They twist and turn at night, they fuss and fight all day; the husband becomes batty, the wife gets involved with another man. The structure of the only marriage vow that's worth a damn, "for richer or for poorer," completely collapses on them. It meant something as poetry but almost nothing as a reality. And that's the moral core (the message) of this simple but pleasant film: Can the two recover from the ruins of their finances/marriage and lead a normal but severely limited life? We must not stop there, we must extend that question to all of America: Can we live and love with less wealth? The answer: If we are ever going to be happy again, we have to live and love with much, much less.