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Pressed into Palm
digital video, 7 minutes, 2003
Pressed into Palm
Let's hope the dampness. . . In any case, she thought, I don't have to worry about the gun merchant, he's a member of the party. Sometimes one succeeds in these things . . .More often than one would think if you are really determined to go all the way, to burn all bridges behind you. Luckily, I learned to shoot with Alessandro at Reggiomonte . . .The balcony or the door? Facing the balcony, in the crowd, it will be harder to move, to raise your arm. But the door is more closely watched . . .it is better to have an alternative . . .you'll decide on the spot . . .in the long run, it would have been wiser to choose the Villa Borghese . . .Manage to stand by the bridle path, a child in hand . . .No, no, don't waver . . .Soon I'll be dead; that is the only sure thing. What are they saying? Queen of Heaven . . .Regina Coeli: that's the name of a prison . . .Perhaps in it tomorrow, I'll . . .Dear God, see to it that I die right away. See to it that my death is not useless. See to it that my hand is steady, see to it that he dies . . .Well, how funny. I was praying without realizing it.

Pressed into palm is a short non-narrative video based loosely on the protagonist of Marguerite Yourcenar's Denier du rÍve. Yourcenar's elegant narrative structure - the passing of the same ten-lira coin from one character to the next in a series of nine transactions - traces various arguments surrounding both the ethics and efficacity of individual citizen's obligations to action against a corrupt state in the face of increasing compromises to rights of determination of leadership and policy. The economies suggested by this series of exchanges subtly diagram the effects of encroachments by state power into the livelihood and community formations of its people. Re-workings of the lines, thought processes, and preparations to action of the novel's protagonist, determined to stop Mussolini's rise to dictatorial power by assassination during a 1933 speech in Rome, follow the contextual impulse of Yourcenar's feverish writing of this novella in 1934. Yourcenar rewrote the novel in 1958-9, and published it with the following afterword:

...All in all, it is the political climate of the story that has changed least in the book, since the events of this novel, which occur in Rome, are quite precisely dated the eleventh year of the Fascist era. These few imaginary events, such as Carlo's deportation and death, Marcella's attempted assassination of Mussolini, are placed, therefore, in 1933; that is, during times when arbitrary laws against enemies of the regime had been multiplying for several years, times when few such political assassinations had been attempted. Furthermore, all this occurs before the expedition into Ethiopia, before the regime's participation in the Spanish Civil War, before the alliance with and quick subjugation by Hitler, before the promulgation of racial laws, and, of course, before the years of confusion, disaster, but also heroic partisan resistance during World War II. It was important, then, not to confuse the image of 1933 with the darker one of the years that saw the conclusion of what had been germinating in 1922-33. Marcella's gesture had to remain a quasi-individual, tragically isolated protest; her ideology had to show the influence of those anarchistic doctrines that once so deeply marked Italian dissidence; Carlo Stevo had to keep his political idealism so limited and futile in appearance; and the regime itself had to keep its alleged positive and triumphant aspect, since it deceived, for such a long time, not so much the Italian people as the outside world. One of the reasons that Denier du rÍve seemed worthy to be published again is that, in its day, it was one of the first French novels (maybe the very first) to confront the hollow reality behind the bloated facade of Fascism, this at a time when so many writers visiting the country were happy still to be enchanted by the traditional Italian picturesqueness, or to applaud the trains running on time (at least in theory), without wondering what terminals the trains were running towards...

Above excerpted from Denier du rÍve (eng trans.: A Coin in Nine Hands) by Marguerite Yourcenar, 1934 and 1959.

PRESSED INTO PALM
7 min, DV - PAL
Country of production: Italy, 2003,
Language: English spoken with Italian subtitles
Camera and direction: Anita Di Bianco
Performed by: Elisabetta Milani
Additional camera: Shahryar Nashat and Alexia Walther
Filmed at the Swiss Institute, Rome
Excerpted from Denier du rÍve (eng trans.: A Coin in Nine Hands) by Marguerite Yourcenar, 1934


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