The Mass Is Ended

La Messa è finita

Nanni Moretti, Italia, 1985


A young priest arrives in his new parish in the outskirts of Rome, carrying his backpack. The church has clearly been abandoned for a long time and is in a terrible state, signalling difficult days to come. Silence dominates the space as he goes to sleep on the narrow bed in his dusty and austere room. 

In the following shot Don Julio lies asleep in bed. The viewer can see, through the window open on to the courtyard, children having fun playing football. The place isn’t as dead and deserted as it first appeared to be. 

The priest is woken by the ball coming through the window. 
A wee boy comes to find the ball and is surprised to find himself face to face with a strange, angry man, in a room he presumed to be empty.  He steps backwards, away from the severe looking individual. The priest steps out in to the courtyard, as all the children pull away from his disapproving appearance. Then, all of a sudden, the situation flips on its head in a way that couldn’t be expected – the priest boots the ball and throws himself into the game with the children, as if he, himself, had become a child once again. 
The change in tone is represented by a joyous tune. 
The priest falls to the ground, and lies there, immobile, as the children carry on their game around him. One of the children even gives him a small kick in passing, as if underlining their refusal to integrate him in to their game. 
(We see this form of exclusion again in a totally different register in Germany Year Zero, Roberto Rosselini)

This fleeting moment with the children was an illusion, all a part of the reveal of the difficulties awaiting him in his new parish.  He is once again a lonely and struggling adult.