A simple, observational doc following the expert craftsmen at a prestigious brass foundry outside Milan
The bell-making scene in Tarkovsky’s ‘Andrei Rublev’ is one of the most stupendous scenes in cinema: a grit-and-sweat depiction of the casting, pouring and firing of a vast cathedral bell in medieval Russia. Swap the sooty peasants for arty Italians and relocate the whole thing to an industrial park outside Milan and you’ve got ‘Hand Gestures’, a wordless, observational documentary which proves that hands-on artisanship is alive and well in the digital age.
The craftsmen at the Fonderia Artistica Battaglia claim that their bronze-casting methods have remained unchanged since the sixth century (I’m slightly dubious – did they really have blowtorches in the dark ages?). Director Francesco Clerici follows artist Velasco Vitali as he creates one of his prized dog sculptures, using wax and clay moulds before pouring in the molten bronze.
It’s remarkable how riveting watching other people work can be: the process is slow, meditative and careful, fascinating in its detail. The end product is ever so slightly disappointing – all that effort for a two-foot-long reclining hound? – but it’s the journey that matters here