The film opens with solemn couples ambling into a shabby suburban dance-hall near Milan. A blind pianist and an accordionist arrive, tune up, and the evening begins. Giovanni, a recently qualified welder, is tensely quarrelling with his fiancee, Liliana. He has been asked to transfer, at an attractive salary, to a new plant which his firm has recently opened in Sicily: she cannot accept the long separation involved. After an estrangement, during which Giovanni successfully mates overtures to another attractive woman, be makes his decision and accepts promotion. It is some time before the couple is reunited, but their relationship during separation achieves a new maturity.
Ermanno Olmi's new film shows that 11 Posto was not just a flash in the pan — The Engagement is a fascinating work. Though the story is simple, its conception is complex. Abandoning traditional narrative treatment Olmi moves with absolute freedom in the time/space territory formerly explored only by Alain Resnais. The film seems to be set in an eternal present, alternating between Giovanni's exile in Sicily and Liliana's long wait in the North. The director has combined a documentary on the new Sicily with a warm perceptive examination of his two leading characters. Olmi here is once again concerned, as in his earlier films, with the importance lo ordinary people of the way they earn their living and the crucial effect it has on their lives.
OiCJ.C Prize. Cannes Festival.