Set in the Apennine Mountains of northern Italy, Marco Righi’s Where the Wind Blows (Il vento soffia dove vuole) follows a farmer’s son, Antimo, whose devotion to his faith grows into an obsession upon meeting the middle-aged, un-baptized Lazzaro.
Antimo’s routine is structured, from feeding the cows, to attending regular mass, mostly in isolation. There is a visual rigidity in the camerawork and staging: mostly shot from objective, 90-degree angles, with straight lines reinforcing the straight and narrow path Antimo is to follow.
His teenage sister Marta starts her morning taking the bus into town for school, and their father is often absent, so even when Antimo sets the table for three, his time is spent mostly by himself. Almost reinforcing his lonesomeness, a noteworthy presence in his life are the cattle; in a story arc during the first act, Antimo gets irritated and chastises a pregnant cow for not eating enough; then brings it up to his priest during confession, and later revisits the cow and weeps, as if in regret.
He crosses paths with another farmhand, Lazzaro, a middle-aged Sardegnese man, who admits he does not know how to pray, and is not yet baptized. The devoutly religious Antimo takes him on as a project or blank canvas, offering to read Lazzaro the scriptures by the fire, and goes as far as to cut his own priest’s cloth and performs the sacrament of baptism for his new friend.
This scene is both touching but also shocking; with Antimo’s deep knowledge of religion, he would know that a non-priest performing a sacrament, such as baptism, is subject to being interdict, and censured from religious activity. It’s revealed that, years ago, Antimo was in the seminary to someday become a priest, but he dropped out; though clearly his calling is re-awakened by Lazzaro.
Lazzaro’s role, and namesake, is symbolic of many narrative and thematic elements throughout the film. Within the Bible (even stated in dialogue), there are two Lazzaros (or Lazaruses): one being the dead man Christ brings back to life, and the other mentioned in a parable from the Gospel According to Luke, in which a rich man in life is sent to hell after death, while a poor beggar (Lazzaro) finds heaven in the afterlife. In both instances, Lazzaro is defined largely through a “before and after” turning point, just as Lazzaro’s baptism is a threshold for his own faith, and Antimo’s crossing over beyond acceptable devotion.
Just on the edge of Antimo’s spiritual journey is his sister Marta, who, like her Biblical namesake Martha, is focused on work of her own, taking the bus into town, focusing on her studies, and not as active in her faith. Within the agrarian setting, she is the pull to modernity and change: her contemporary Android mobile phone stands out from the antiquated black-and-white, Snake-equipped cell phones of Antimo and his girlfriend; and her geographic commute, leaving the small village for the pursuit of knowledge, aspiring for bigger and better things, is the only real tie to the outside, modern world.
The film’s title, Where the Wind Blows (literally The Wind Blows Where It Flies) is a bit puzzling; it seems to evoke fate, of nature or elements out of man’s control, while in fact the story tells of characters taking the reins in their lives, for better or worse, and the fundamental changes that occur as a result. A thematic question, raised by Antimo’s actions testing the limits of his religious calling, is who can be a saint, and who has the “right” to perform acts of God: an area within the choices of man, rather than acts of destiny.
Where the Wind Blows is a bit slow and quiet, and is challenging to reach in and connect emotionally with the characters. Alongside Alice Rohrwacher’s Corpo celeste and Lazzaro felice, this is another contemporary-set religious fable, provoking questions of how, and by whom, faith is manifested in the modern world.