Dreamy Cannes drama ‘Parthenope’ embodies Naples’ character, says director

By Thomson Reuters May 22, 2024 | 9:19 AM

CANNES, France (Reuters) – The heroine of “Parthenope,” Paolo Sorrentino’s new coming-of-age drama, is the embodiment of the city of Naples and all its mysteries and freedoms, the Italian director said on Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film had its premiere.

Newcomer Celeste Dalla Porta stars as the titular character, a long-haired beauty who enchants the men in her life, with the film following her from her birth in the waters of the Bay of Naples to her last day before retiring as a professor of anthropology.

“Parthenope, in the first part of the film, when she is young, coincides with the city, they are two mysteries,” said Sorrentino, a Cannes veteran who has brought seven films to compete for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.

Sorrentino was nominated for an Oscar for 2021’s “The Hand of God,” set in 1980s Naples, and won best foreign language film with 2013’s “The Great Beauty.”

“In the second part, her view becomes more critical when a more disenchanted phase of her life begins. She is a free and spontaneous woman, who does not judge, exactly like the city.”

Naples is sometimes known as Parthenope in reference to the ancient Greek settlement established there, named after a siren who according to legend drowned herself after failing to bewitch Odysseus and whose body washed up on the shores of the city.

For Dalla Porta, 26, the film not only is an allegory for Naples, but also for her own life.

“Before we started shooting the film I was still in a youthful, carefree phase of my life, where work was still something of a dream and being an actor somewhat an abstract idea,” said at a news conference alongside Sorrentino.

“But during the process of making the film, it was as if I had to let go of the little girl in me,” she added.

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala, Writing by Miranda Murray, Editing by Ros Russell)