By Mónica Delgado

Atlas is the second feature film by Italian filmmaker Niccolò Castelli, and it concentrates all its structure to bring to life the portrait of Allegra, a young woman who has suffered the loss of her boyfriend and some nearby friends during a terrorist attack. The film is constructed in such a way -due to the use of various flashbacks- that guilt, trauma and mourning join suspicion, mistrust and a xenophobic stance from the main character, prejudices that are gradually being cleared up.

Presented in the section dedicated to the Swiss panorama of 74° Locarno, Atlas gains interest when the character escapes some conventions of this type of film, where surviving characters seek answers to an unexpected loss (One thinks in certain way -with clear distance- in the introspective aspects of the protagonist of Kieslowski’s Blue, but also in the role of Rosie Perez in Fearless, which would be the highlight of the film). Allegra (the young actress Matilda De Angelis, known for her role in series like The undoing) engages in a series of encounters with a suspect of the attack: the young Arab refugee named Arad (Helmi Dridi). The way in which the protagonist approaches this character is based on the certainty that she has that this person could be one of those responsible for the explosion in Morocco. Thus, from the pain of mourning, from the physical effects of an attack, one passes through the tension between a possible love story (an attraction with hybristophilic echoes), to give substance to a moral fable, where prejudices end and respect for the other opens up.

For this reason, Atlas, which has a classical treatment, somehow misses the dark psychological aspect of the character, with this strange relationship that she establishes with the refugee (also a musician and composer, and a DJ worker in a pub), when it turns towards the story of overcoming a world that needs to fight racism and xenophobia. Thus, Castelli opts for the edifying story, also represented on the cusps of the Dolomites, the mountains of the Italian Alps, which the protagonist climbs as a synonym of her freedom and with turning her back to fear and certain gratuitous suspicions of racial or ethical nature.

Swiss overview
Director: Niccolò Castelli
Script: Niccolò Castelli, Stefano Pasetto
Photography: Pietro Zuercher
Edition: Esmeralda Calabria
Producers: Villi Hermann, Michela Pini
Sound: Marc Engels, Antoine Vandendriessche
Music: Karim Baggili
Cast: Matilda De Angelis, Helmi Dridi, Nicola Perot, Kevin Blaser, Irene Casagrande, Anna Manuelli, Angelo Bison, Neri Marcorè, Anna Ferruzzo, Doro Müggler, Cristina Zamboni, Andrea Zogg
Switzerland, Belgium, Switzerland, 2021, 88 min