Arianna, a Postmodern ‘Thread’ into Labyrinth
Arianna is the story of a nineteen-year-old intersexual person, castrated at the age of three and sex-reassigned through cosmetic surgery. Throughout the narration, the audience, along with Arianna (played by Ondina Quadri) discover that ‘she’ has been brought up as
Arianna is the story of a nineteen-year-old intersexual person, castrated at the age of three and sex-reassigned through cosmetic surgery. Throughout the narration, the audience, along with Arianna (played by Ondina Quadri) discover that ‘she’ has been brought up as a single-gender identity, until the day ‘she’ is no longer convinced by her female appearance and discovers that he/she is actually a hermaphrodite:
“The day I got my surgery, they made me the little girl they wanted. The girl that I was not. Hermaphrodite, that’s what I heard I was.”
This is how Arianna presents his/her dual being in the “This is me, Arianna” promo-short, the first online premiere that anticipated the successful feature film.
It is precisely with this short prelude that director Carlo Lavagna’s primary motivation behind the making of this feature film becomes clear in the need to tell a story that engages with the unknown, in this case intersexuality, a variation in sex characteristics; an issue which he never tries to simplify. On the contrary, he displays a ‘postmodern’ Ariadne’s thread into the omnipresent labyrinth of gender to familiarize the viewer with intersexuality and help them acknowledge its existence, rather than reducing it to a matter of understanding. This pioneering approach as an Italian film director was most likely what made his work so appreciated at the David di Donatello Awards, for which he was nominated as Best New Director.
For instance, he chose to begin the movie with Arianna’s single-gender identity, according to the unquestionable dichotomy of female-male, and then deconstructs it as a mere fetish, a targeted product of society, reminding the audience that gender itself is actually a fluid invention; a critical, self-reflective hyperreal that can be ultimately investigated and deconstructed. This certainly defined him as an activist filmmaker delivering a powerful message of gender-freed self-determination, making this movie particularly appealing at festivals, such as 72nd edition of Venice Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival.
Another strong point of the movie lies in how Arianna’s story succeeds in eluding the trap of commodification – which wants to understand before accepting and sharing its vision – by purposefully stating her awareness of who she/he is – “I am one plus one equals three, though” – even when it could be considered a threat towards the heteronormative ideology, which imposes its obliteration through a simple procedure of sex-reassignment.
Hence, as Josè E. Muñoz, the theorist of “dis-identification”, outlines, Arianna is a character where “the researched become the researcher”, who investigates his/her truth self in order to consciously reinvent “a personal mathematics” and freely rewrite that label printed like a brand on him/her at birth.
Writer: Carlo Salsa, Carlo Lavagna, Chiara Barzini
Cast: Ondina Quadri, Massimo Popolizio, Valentina Carnelutti, Corrado Sassi, Blu Yoshimi, Lidia Vitale, Eduardo Valdarnini