This Sarasota Film Festival flick about how awful people can be to each other is not for the faint of heart.
"Delenda," a movie that premiered Thursday at the Sarasota Film Festival, was gross — but that’s the point.
It’s a movie about ISIS, but not really. It’s about doing drugs, but only as a motif. It’s about big media companies being awful, kind of. Mostly, it’s a movie about toxic relationships and freeing yourself from their holds.
Set in New York City, the movie follows a group of friends one by one. Rosemary (played by Adelind Horan) is trying to make a more serious name for herself as a “journalist,” but her selfishness and shallowness are hard to shake. Guy (Vasile Flutur) hates himself and is stuck in a self-destructive cycle of substance abuse. Hope (Arin Maclaine) is a teenager who wants to join ISIS for ideological reasons, but is uneasy about murder. And Jean (Yael Shavitt) is quiet, lets people walk all over her and feels a lot of jealousy towards her friends.
All of them are complex characters and bad people in their own right, but the movie explores how they’re bad for each other. It’s a satire about just how awful people can be to each other. Each of the movie’s characters are trying to give themselves a fresh start. Some of them die trying.
Director Ralph Moffettone hopes the film would be, if anything, a cautionary tale. In a Q&A following the movie’s premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival, he said the first scene he thought of was a wake, where someone is dead and it’s supposed to be about that person and everyone’s grief, but the characters are exactly who they were before and somehow make a funeral all about them.
“They suffer for their sins,” he said of the characters.
Delenda is exactly what I would have imagined when I pictured a movie screening at a film festival. A little experimental, very dark, and it leaves you feeling kind of uneasy. But it’s not a movie for everyone.
It’s full of violence, of drawn-out scenes of substance abuse, of close-up shots of men eating greasy food or people's noses, of piercing sounds when you least expect them. Four people left the theater in the middle of the showing.
It’s been called a dark comedy, but it errs more on the side of “dark.”
When it was over, a member of the audience asked about why the film’s message was so hopeless.
“I don’t know if I’m necessarily in the business of delivering you hope,” Moffettone said.