La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi (The Solitude of Prime Numbers)

Not an easy movie to watch or understand but is a movie that will stay with you for a long, long time. Stayed so long in me that I decided to read the book by Paolo Giordano and I did. Can’t recall the last time a good movie made wish to learn the original story, but after reading some viewers and critics’ reviews I knew I had to read the book. It’s a very unusual and remarkable love story, both in the book as in the movie; but they’re a bit different as writer and co screenwriter Paolo Giordano didn’t want the movie to be the same as the book, according to what I read.

Story premise is based on the following:

“Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and by themselves. They hold their place in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed, like all numbers, between two others, but one step further than the rest. (…) Among prime numbers, there are some that are even more special. Mathematicians call them twin primes: pairs of prime numbers that are close to each other, almost neighbors, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from truly touching. Numbers like 11 and 13, like 17 and 19, 41 and 43”. Excerpt from the book, Chapter 21, In and Out of The Water, 1998

As the above arid mathematic explanation, the also arid –yet remarkable and disturbing- story is about Alice and Mattia that since they met when they were kids there was something that prevented them from truly touching. They were like twin primes. But they were also damaged for life with events both kept secret and that happened when they were little kids, long before they met. In the book the story is told chronologically telling what happened in 1983, 1984, 1991, 1995, 1998, 2003, and 2007; the film also tells story from the same years but is not told chronologically, so scenes move back and forth in time which at the beginning confuses but soon enough you start to follow the entwined basic four stories: when Alice and Mattia are kids, teens, young adults, and adults. You have to watch the movie to learn more about the story because I already told you too much, but I believe what I told you are the basics to not get too lost while watching the movie; not get lost but still be puzzled, wondering what’s going on, what comes next, as I believe director Saverio Costanzo chose to tell story with a very unconventional and impressive storytelling technique.

I liked the movie but definitively wanted to know more about story as I got the impression things were left out. To my surprise not much was changed especially when Alice and Mattia are kids and teens; story starts to be a bit different when they’re young adults and adults plus the end in the film is ambiguously positive, while in book is not positive. In my opinion the “disturbing” story in film was toned down in detriment of really understanding what this love story was all about in film. But still I highly recommend this movie that absolutely is not for general audiences, this is for those that like their films to make them think a lot while watching non-pleasant things constantly happening, all done with very beautiful to watch visuals and attractive actors.

Just for information purposes, in the book there is a character that’s gay, Dennis who’s teen Mattia’s school friend. In film they changed the gay character into a “sort of” lesbian character, Viola is teen Alice school friend who kisses her once only to Alice developing a crush on her; Viola kisses her twice and absolutely behaves as she’s jealous when Alice ends up with Mattia. Quite nice to watch.

A story like this could not be told without good and intense performances by young and mature actors; I was absolutely impressed with the outstanding performance by Alba Rohrwacher (I like this actress more and more) but more with her physical change as Alice is anorexic and Rohrwacher lost so much weight to interpret adult Alice that looked disturbingly unhealthy. Also with impressing performances Arianna Nastro who plays Alice as a teen, Luca Marinelli as young/adult Mattia and none other than Isabella Rossellini in a too-short performance as Mattia’s mother.

I do recommend film but as mentioned I know that’s not for everyone, this is a movie beyond extremes as either you will watch it completely and story will not leave you for a long time, or you will stop watching. If you haven’t read the book I suggest you to follow my experience and watch film then read the book; I’m sure reading the book will enlighten you in the dark mind of Paolo Giordano, a real-life physicist that wrote his first novel only to win Italy’s premier literary award, the Premio Strega.


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