Alba Rohrwacher, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi,
From the very first frames of Rohrwacher’s The Pupils, “a film clumsily and freely based on a letter the writer Elsa Morante sent to her friend Goffredo Fofi,” it’s clear we’re in for an original, whimsical, wonderful thirty-seven minutes in the company of the rebellious little girls at a Catholic boarding school in Italy. It’s Christmas, it’s wartime, things are scarce. The Mother Superior, played by the marvelous Alba Rohrwacher, Alice’s sister and longtime collaborator (The Wonders, Happy as Lazzaro), rules over her charges with a strict and unyielding eye. Desires both pure and selfish are navigated. There’s the Nativity play, requests for prayers from these innocent girls, and an irresistible red cake—temptation abounds! Gorgeously rendered in Super 16mm, filmmaker Rohrwacher’s sublime imagination and exquisite artistry once again prove her one of the most original cinema artists of her generation.