A man (Daniele Parisi) wakes up with a ringing in his ears, and he finds a note on his fridge that reads “Your friend Luigi is dead. P.S. I took the car.” What follows is a comedy of philosophical frustration and deep existential ennui.
Ears is a movie of formula. The man, who is never given a name (the credits list him as “Lui” or “He” in Italian), is of a certain age where he should be farther in life than he is and can’t figure out why he’s stuck in neutral. He’s a writer of modest success who certainly isn’t exactly a failure, nor is he a person of world renown. This man is just a man of average looks, average height, average talent, and a hell of a cynical outlook on life. He doesn’t even have a friend named Luigi, though somebody thought he was important enough to call him friend and let him know of Luigi’s death. And now he has tinnitus?!
By the time you reach that age, if you haven’t grown, you become trapped in your black and white little box. Everything you see is trapped inside an inflexible world view that you can’t escape. Everything repeats on an endless loop of predictable misery. You know that if everybody operated on your level, the world would be a better and happier existence. There’s a stasis of boring humdrum life that repeats and cycles through until everything is just boring and frustrating, and goddamn why do people have to suck so much?
In a way, Ears is a day in the life of a person like that. But, it’s bigger than that. This is a movie of frustration in the vein of After Hours where this misanthrope has to overcome the variety of ill-matching personalities in order to fix his tinnitus and figure out who the hell Luigi is and why does he know that Luigi is dead? There are some problems that you can solve on your own, and some that require the help and intervention of others. Sometimes, they’re intimately related in the fabric of life.
By throwing Him into a Kafkaesque view of life, Ears presents conflicting philosophies of life and bounces them around like existential ping pong balls; sometimes you have to be hit by a few. Even if you know the end point, everything in life is about the journey. That’s the prize of Ears. It takes you through a whacked out version of Italian life while amusing itself with the strife of its main character. The best part is that it also has some of the most interesting black and white cinematography (complete with changing aspect ratios) in awhile. I guess you have to when you start out with what seems like a perfect 1.33:1 academy ratio.
This is a movie of the absurd, but it is neither as surreal or as absurd as I’m selling. The absurdity lies in the people rather than the visuals or the film itself. Ears is a lightly bizarre film with modest ambitions of grand ideas. It’s a delightful day out at the movies.