The Hand of God

I have shoehorned Paolo Sorrentino’s 2021 film Hand of God (È Stata la mano di Dio), into the Summer Reads section with the intention of providing ambient sound to accompany the rustling of pages and gull cries on the beach.

Here’s why. For all its visual richness, Hand of God is a singularly aural film. I confirmed this by screening it a second time and listening with my eyes closed. Much of the sound has the quality of a guided meditation. At other times, it almost literally boxes the ear.

Set in Naples in the mid 1980s, during the Maradona Moment, from which the film’s title derives, HoG, is, in essence, a romantic, if deeply contra-nostalgic coming-of-age story. But coming of age in Naples at this, or perhaps any time, is to arrive with lots of company: immediate and extended family, neighbors, and chance acquaintanceships.

That’s all I’ll say. If you are so moved, listen to the movie (Netflix), and if you like, open your eyes. The prize is not the Scudetto, or even the World Cup. It’s hearing what a Neapolitan speedboat sounds like – on the open waters of the bay, and in the human mouth and ear.

The caveat: Hand of God, like Sorrentino’s 2013 La grande bellezza, is a work of tragic absurdism. It contains moments of quite potent psychological violence.

— Eric Darton