The Sky is Falling Review
Bypassing cinemas and going straight to DVD in the UK, The Sky Is Falling is undoubtedly gaining a release because of its two stars, Jeroen Krabbe (still best known here for his villainous turns in The Fugitive and The Living Daylights) and Isabella Rossellini. Yet despite both their names appearing before the title in the opening credits the pair are given very little to do. Instead, the focus is on two children whom their characters become the guardians of during the Second World War.
Approaching wartime through the eyes of a child is hardly an unknown quantity in cinema, two of the finest examples being Robert Rossellini’s Germany: Year Zero and Elim Klimov’s Come and See. Whilst these films adopt the child’s perspective in order to highlight the shocking and cruel aspects of war (extending the examples, the horror genre is also rife with films using a similar approach), The Sky Is Falling takes a different, much gentler view. The Italian setting, perpetual sunlight, continuous laughter and the fact that both children are young blonde haired girls suggests that this is a lighter, more charming affair. Indeed, such is its overall mood that one begins to suspect that this film is solely aiming for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, in the manner of such self-consciously charming films as Mediterraneo and Belle Epoque. In itself, this approach need not present problems – consider Nikita Mikhailov’s Burnt By The Sun which used it as a splendidly ironic counterpoint to Russia’s political unrest. But in the case of The Sky Is Falling any dramatic weight is constantly sacrificed in its favour. The first hour is the prime offender, focusing as it does almost solely on the children at play in a manner akin to Yves Robert’s Marcel Pagnol adaptations. Indeed, while history is continually developing – Mussolini getting arrested, Italy signing an armistice with Eisenhower – the children whom the filmmakers have chosen to focus upon do not.
A respite does come at the hour mark, though even this development is not without its problems. The arrival of Germans into the small Italian village is heralded in an extremely heavy-handed manner – they literally interrupt one of the childrens’ games – and this tone remains until the end (at one point Krabbe is seen playing, and beating, a German officer at chess). However, despite this change there is still little of dramatic interest prompting the finale to be loaded with incident. Predictably, the ending doesn’t come happily – films that combine war and children seldom do – but neither does it come with much dramatic effect as so little has been invested in these characters, particularly the adults. Ultimately, The Sky Is Falling is too tame to be either truly frustrating or offensive, but then it is also utterly banal and totally uninspiring.
Apart from the disc being non-anamorphic, Eureka have presented The Sky Is Falling in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and in fine condition. Only occasionally erring on the grainy side, for the most part the picture remains crisp and presents no great problems. The soundtrack is similarly fine, preserving the original Italian dialogue with optional English subtitles and remaining clean and clear throughout. The only extras are a link to Eureka’s website and a photo gallery of production stills. This latter feature makes the common mistake of only utilising a fraction of the screen space.