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The Cafe Irreal: Irreal (Re)views

Il Posto (1961), an Italian film directed by Ermanno Olmi

reviewed by Andrew Hill

There are three tenets holding up the film Il Posto: a post of posts; an ephemeral and innocent coffee romance; and the accomplishment of nothing in the end. Apart from its importance to the history of Italian cinema, it revolves in a circle around the abyss of modern office life. Within the fact of the reproducibility (and thus replaceability and generality of persons) of cubicles in rectangular, concrete buildings is the base. From this base comes the story of a young boy who passes through the process in three rungs: searching for employment in Milan, taking pointless employment examinations, meeting a colleague who highlights the feminine of nihilism, and then being newly employed for an indefinite amount of technical time.


In Means without End: Notes on Politics Giorgio Agamben writes:

In the cinema, a society that has lost its gestures tries at once to reclaim what it has lost and to record its loss. (From the chapter titled Notes on Gesture, section 52,3, University of Minnesota Press).

By tracing lines of flight which precede the post of posts, Olmi records the loss of the gestures that we modern humans have undergone, are undergoing, and will continue to undergo until a new figure emerges from the confusion. Olmi attempts to record these gestures in the figure of the young girl who is the feminine aspect of nihilism. In the end, she is vacant, that is, she does not come to the dance. The ballet goes on without her. That is to say, the nothingness is made present by her absence. However, the young boy continues on at the dance, dances, and renews an energy within us that may take us from the old to the new.


A small cup of coffee gives us over to the kinship of the young boy and the young girl. As they drink the coffee, the moment arrives in which he and she are not distinguishable. It is this: the feminine of nihilism passes into the young boy. He continues to carry the feminine spirit into the indefinite amount of technical time at his new job.


In the end, nothing happens other than the inception of a never-ending process: job searching. It holds us in its grasp. The time is destitute and a sign of this is the need to find a job. The title itself is a reminder of this destitution: Il Posto.

Born in Springfield, Missouri in 1982, Andrew Hill completed a B.A. at the University of Wisconsin in 2006. He is currently teaching English in the south of France. His current interest is the development of the medieval love-lyric in Europe in the context of a philosophy expressed in these love-songs in terms of the exchange between the lover and the beloved.

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