Brenta, Mario

(1942-)
   Director. Following a degree in engineering at the Politecnico of Milan, Venetian-born Brenta began working in advertising before moving to films. After serving as assistant to a number of directors, including Luigi Zampa, he produced a remarkable first film, Vermistat (1974), the portrait of a man so poor and socially marginal that he survives by selling worms to fishermen. A slow-paced film of austere beauty and profound compassion, it was hailed, especially in France, as an extraordinary first work. In 1982, while continuing to make documentaries and short films for French and Italian television, Brenta joined Ermanno Olmi in setting up the alternative film school Ipotesi Cinema at Bassano di Grappa, where he has subsequently taught.
   In 1989 he directed his second feature, Maicol, a powerful film that documents the plight of Maicol, a withdrawn five-year-old child who lives alone with his mother in a relationship of near neglect. The film charts the odyssey of the child one night when he is carelessly abandoned on a train by a mother who is more concerned with tracking down her sometime lover than with paying attention to her son. A moving but unsentimental study of child neglect and emotional deprivation, the film is all the more powerful in its studied avoidance of moralistic condemnation. Brenta's third film, made in 1994, was a stunningly beautiful adaptation of the novel by Dino Buzzati, Barnabo delle montagne (Barnabo of the Mountains), the story of an introverted forest ranger who seeks expiation and solitude among the craggy peaks and eternal silences of the Dolomites. Between feature films, and in keeping with his great love of the natural environment, Brenta has continued to make nature documentaries, among them the remarkable Robinson in Laguna (1985), a 25-minute film about a man who has rowed across the Venetian lagoon every morning for the last 50 years in order to cultivate a small plot of land on an island within sight of but a world away from the city that the tourists see.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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