A modern day telling of music composer Carlo Gesualdo’s life, from falling in love, finding a muse to betrayal of the utmost, Dolorosa Gioia is a fictional take on a biography that plays with music as a language, emotions as a means of expression, and images as art.
Written and directed by Gonzalo López, Dolorosa Gioia takes an interesting twist on things besides bringing the story of Carlo Gesualdo to modern times by having the film me without dialog. A few sounds are emitted by the cast here and there close to the end, but the great majority of all communication is non-verbal and it works. Of course this requires a higher attention span and to details from the viewer, but once pulled in the film keeps them glued to the screen with a story and developments that are interesting to watch, with or without words. The story is well developed, written, and directed, which helps give the film a powerful impact.
The cast here is given a chance to really shine even without words, having plenty to work with and being given a chance to establish their characters and emotions on screen for all to see and watch. Lead Amiran Winter takes his part and infuses it with something mysterious, something more than what is originally shown. His acting as Carlo Gesualdo gives the film its tone by giving away little bits at time and giving a performance of restrained emotions and actions for most of the film.
Balancing him out is Paula Célières as his love, his muse, his everything outside of music. Her performance is more effusive a bit as she shows more and seems to want more out of life than he does, or at least she shows this. Their wants and needs are similar on many fronts and clash on others, leading to the ending that may or may not surprise depending on knowledge of the subject at hand. The rest of the cast is good with a few performances being above par of course and a few coming off a bit bland. However, the two leads and the main supporting cast keep it interesting and keep attention on the film for the duration.
In terms of visuals and audio, this film provides images and music that are carefully planned with cinematography Gemma Roges and music by Marco Chiaperotti. The cinematography makes the most of the locations, the inside of the house in particular, as the camera snakes around the house, up and down the stairs, onto an indoor balcony, etc as it follows the leads and plays along to emotions. A few scenes near the start have some camera movements that feel off, but the rest is basically impeccable work. The music itself being at the heart of the story is of great importance and clearly was being handled as such, with music following each character, each scene, punctuating all the things that take place on screen carefully to help the emotions on screen come across and really make an impact. Music-wise, things are handled with the right amount of precision and care as well as with the sound design which carefully follows the characters and their movements among the music.
Dolorosa Gioia, or in its English title Sweet Pain, is all about the subtleties of human emotions and the connection between music and these emotions. Everything in this film is calculated yet feels natural. The performances and music pair together to perfectly bring the emotions to the screen, giving the cast great material to work with and they, in return, give strong performances. The fact that there is practically not a word uttered throughout the film is something that becomes secondary as soon as the viewer really give in to the story and gets taken by its emotions. In the end, the film shows that what haunts the heart haunts the mind haunts the art as a man finds his inspiration through love and pain.