Live performances of any kind always present more challenges than their recorded counterparts. If a film actor gets injured, sick or loses his or her voice, the filming session simply gets postponed for a couple of days or weeks. However, in the context of a live musical performance, theatrical play or, in the case of ‘Luca’, dancing competition, such an event can spell disaster.
During the final practice session before the participation in a dance competition, one of the dancers hurts her ankle and cannot perform her role. Pressure then mounts on Luca, who is asked to take part instead of the injured girl, or else all the hard work of the group would have been completely in vain. Luca is horrified by this prospect, and eventually, shares his reasons with everybody else: as a transgender man, he cannot come to terms with being a girl one more time, not even for a few minutes.
Director Adi Wojaczek does a very astute job of capturing the essence of an inner struggle, and the prospect of returning to a state of mind that one has so desperately sought to get away from. The film provides a snapshot of this process in terms of sexuality, yet this can be generalized and interpreted on a higher, more universal level.
With respect to this, ‘Luca’ is not necessarily rich in symbolism, but makes good and thoughtful use of it whenever it gets the chance. Luca starts performing in his feminine outfit, but progressively loses it, thus exposing his current true self. His performance is not a lie, and he expresses himself naturally. Whether this represents the lack of a need for a definite need for sexuality boundaries in artistic expression, or is more tied to one’s own personal act of self-expression is interpretable and left at the audience’s latitude to expound as they see fit.
Everything from direction and cinematography to editing and acting is all very carefully and thoughtfully crafted – the film effectively captivates the audience, achieves a coherent flow and delivers one turning point after another. It is obvious that director Adi Wojaczek has a real knack for vividly representing such struggles, while also managing to attract a very talented team around him. The only aspect for which I cannot offer universal praise is represented by the dialogues. These are not very believable at times – a colleague’s success of convincing Luca to take part during a 20-second reiteration of what had been said earlier seems forced, but also prevents the whole persuasion phase from dragging on. Equally, the character of Luca, played by Pierandrea Rosato, doesn’t always resonate with his words, which I think stems from the content of the dialogues rather than his ability as an actor – after all, he does a wonderful job in all the non-verbal instances of his performance.
All in all, ‘Luca’ is a vivid and condensed depiction of inner struggle and how even short imaginary scenarios can achieve a profound emotional impact on somebody who has been running away from something, and now has to come back to it. The project speaks volumes about art in general, and the different perspectives through which it can be seen and interpreted. Despite some minor issues, ‘Luca’ is clearly a short film to be enjoyed.