How much does it cost to fulfill a wish: parsing the movie The Place (2017): the meaning and plot of the movie, content, explanation of the ending, similar movies.
Genre: thriller, drama, detective
Year of production: 2017
Director: Paolo Genovese
Actors: Valerio Mastandrea, Marco Giallini, Alessandro Borghi, Silvio Muccino, Alba Rohrwacher.
Slogan: “How far are you willing to go for your desires?”
Awards and nominations: Golden Globe (Italy, 2018) for Best Cinematography, Golden Globe nomination (Italy, 2018) for Best Screenplay.
In 2017, Italian director Paolo Genovese, creator of the comedy drama Perfect Strangers, released a new film titled The Place, an adaptation of the American TV series Table in the Corner. The meaning of the movie “The Place” perfectly conveys its slogan: “How far are you willing to go for your desires?”. Through the analysis of the plot we will try to find an explanation for the ending of the drama and understand the director’s ideas that he wanted to convey to the audience.
What the movie’s about
The action and plot of the movie “The Place” unfolds in a cafe called “The Place” (translated from Italian as “The Place”, this word is put in the title of the drama).
At the table of a cafe sits Man (in the credits L’uomo, translated from Italian as “Man”), to whom people constantly come. He fulfills any dreams in exchange for the fulfillment of his assignments. From his explanations we know that he does not set impossible tasks, but almost every one of them becomes a test for clients and forces them to make a choice between their own moral principles and the fulfillment of their desires.
The plot of the movie “The Place” presents dialogs of the Man and his visitors. The Man is dressed in a business suit, in front of him lies a notebook, from which he takes tasks for clients, and writes down their desires, thoughts, feelings and a description of the actions they take to fulfill the received tasks. After someone’s wish is fulfilled, the Man tears out the sheet and burns it in an ashtray. The cafe closes, and he communicates with the waitress Angela.
There is no sense to analyze the plot of the drama in detail, as the retelling of all dialogues (the whole picture consists of them) will be difficult to read and perceive. Throughout the picture, people come to the Man, talk to him, leave, but each of them comes back several times to tell him how the preparation for the task is going and to get their reward. Below we will explain what wish each visitor made, what task he received and how his storyline ended.
The first client is a policeman, Ettore, who wants to return the stolen money. To do this, the Man offers him to beat up someone. Ettore fulfills the task, the wish is granted, but the man returns and informs him that the thief is his son, with whom he is in a quarrel. He makes a second wish: to find his son. He gets a task: to hide the crime. A woman named Azzura comes to the station and writes a statement against her husband. Ettore does not let the case proceed, the woman is killed by her husband. The policeman repents and confesses to his superior. He is arrested. His son comes to the cell and the men reconcile.
Her first wish is for her husband to love her again. A man offers her to destroy someone else’s family. Finds an unhappy (in her opinion) married couple in the neighborhood and tries to seduce the man, but she fails, so she plants her underwear in his apartment. His wife finds it, the family breaks up, and Azzura informs her husband that she is cheating on him with the neighbor. Azzura’s wish is fulfilled, but she changes her mind as she no longer sees the point in further relationships. Her jealous husband begins to beat her. Azzura asks the Man to get her husband off her back, but the man refuses to help her. Azzura writes a police report, but falls for Ettore. The woman is killed by her husband.
Fulvio is a blind man who wants his sight back. He receives an assignment: to rape a woman. At first he refuses and leaves, but after much hesitation he decides to do it. He meets a nun Sister Chiara, gets close to her, invites her home and tries to rape her, but because the woman felt sympathy for him and she needed to get pregnant, he fails the task. He ends up being left blind.
Sister Chiara is the Man’s next visitor in the movie The Place. Desires to hear from God again, is given a task: get pregnant. She refuses, as the task contradicts the meaning of her life, but then meets Fulvio in the church. She likes him, so after a few dates she decides to sleep with him. Sister Chiara’s wish comes true: she hears the voice of God telling her that she is going to have a boy.
Marcella is an elderly woman. She asks to cure her husband of Alzheimer’s disease. Receives a task – to kill a certain number of people. Assembles a bomb, during a visit to the Man tells how the preparations are going. From the content of her monologue we know that she constantly thinks about future victims and their loved ones and pities them. She wants to detonate the bomb in the cafe where Fulvio and her sister Chiara are spending time, but does not dare. Reports that she has completed the order, but the Man recognizes the deception. In the finale, Marcella brings a bag with a bomb to the cafe and tells the Man that she will blow it up with the other customers, but then decides that by completing the task she will become like him and will not be able to look into the eyes of her recovered husband. He leaves with the bag, breaking the agreement.
Odoacer is an auto mechanic. Wants to spend the night with a model. Gets an assignment: to protect a strange girl for two weeks. Gets a job as a bartender at a cafe across the street from her house to observe and help her if necessary. Saves the girl from a man named Luigi who was about to run her over with a car. Two weeks expire, Odoacer completes the mission, but becomes attached to the girl and is afraid to leave her in danger. Kidnaps the child and hides her to save her. Tracks Luigi, sneaks into his house and tries to kill him. Gets stabbed, probably dies.
Luigi is a young man who wants to cure his son of cancer. Receives an assignment to kill another man’s child. Picks a stranger girl, but discovers that Odoacer is following her. Tries to run her over, Odoacer rescues the girl and then kidnaps her. Is attacked by Odoakr, wounds him and goes to look for the girl. Finds her, but hesitates to kill her and lets her go. Goes to the hospital because he thinks his son will die, but finds that the child has recovered and the tumor has disappeared.
Martina, the next character in the movie “The Place”, makes a wish: to become beautiful. The assignment is to steal 100,000.05 dollars. Decides to steal from acquaintances. Meets Alex, who sells LSD, falls in love, asks the Man for permission to take him with him. Gets consent. During the robbery is wounded. In the end of the picture she refuses the task, as she is satisfied with her present life.
Young boy, LSD dealer, son of Ettore. The first wish is a trial: flowers for Martina. Fulfills a task: to cross the road 10 grandmothers. Second request: for his father to stop looking for him. A man offers him to help Martine with a robbery. Stealing money fails, the girl is wounded. He makes a new wish: Martine refuses the assignment. The man suggests that he tell his father that he loves him. Alex meets with Ettore and says the words, but the task does not count: the point is that the guy did not believe in what he says. Visits his father in prison and makes peace with him. This time he does not say the right words, but feels pity and love for his father. The man notices it. The task is completed, at the end of the movie “The Place” Martina refuses the task.
The Place Explanation of the ending
In the final scene of the movie “The Place” A man is sitting at a table and dozing. Angela approaches him and sits down next to him. The man wakes up and says that he has not slept well for a long time. The waitress invites him to tell him a cherished dream, to name his wish.
The man says that he wants to stop doing what he is doing so that he does not see how much evil is in the world. The girl replies that the wish is doable, takes his notebook and writes something.
Next we see that the table where the Man was sitting is empty, and the paper is burning out in the ashtray.
The meaning of the ending of the movie “The Place” is that the Man’s wish has been fulfilled, and he will no longer, in his words, “feed the monsters.” However, it is not known what the Man’s assignment was. Most likely, it was his job: to be in the cafe and grant wishes.
Also, one can only speculate who Angela is and why she has such powers. There is an interpretation that says that she is an angel, as this is hinted at by her name. Is this really the case? Everyone is free to decide for themselves, because the director did not give a definitive answer to this question.
The meaning of the movie The Place
“Meeting Place” is a chamber conversation thriller that raises a number of philosophical questions. The point of the movie is to let the viewer think about how far a person is willing to go for the sake of fulfilling his desire. People come to the Man: someone wants to become beautiful, someone wants to make a loved one well, someone wants to make peace with a relative, etc. The person fulfills wishes in exchange for the fulfillment of their tasks. As a rule, it is a crime: murder, theft, terrorist act, beating, etc. The beggar is faced with a choice: to fulfill the task and get what he wants or to refuse, to sacrifice the dream, but to stay true to his beliefs and principles.
It is unknown who the Man Who Fulfills Wishes is. To Sister Chiara, who asks if he is the devil, the man does not answer, but it is unlikely that he belongs to the forces of evil. The man is genuinely interested in the actions of the clients, listens to them attentively, and makes notes in a notebook. He does not express directly his attitude to what is happening, but you can see from his face that he approves of good and condemns bad deeds. Thus, he does not like Odoacer’s kidnapping of the girl, but he is glad when Luigi rescues her instead of killing her. He sympathizes with his sister Chiara and Martina, but he dislikes Fulvio, who, it would seem, should arouse sympathy because he is blind, but because of his obsession with the desire to see and his willingness to commit a crime for the sake of it and betray the man who trusted him, he dislikes him.
The Man in the movie probably serves as a mediator. The tasks he gives to people he does not invent himself: they are already in a notebook on his desk. He himself brings into it people’s feelings and emotions, their actions, the results of transactions. The man does not force visitors to perform tasks: on the contrary, he immediately says, and then constantly reminds them that it is possible to refuse, if he sees that the person doubts. Some episodes hint at the fact that he is not only indifferent to what is happening, but is generally bored with it all.
In the movie “The Place”, it sometimes turns out that you don’t have to take the terms of the assignment literally. Luigi does not kill, but saves the girl, and in doing so, his son recovers. The clue is that in his case it was necessary for him to learn to make choices, not just live as society’s laws demand. That’s the hidden meaning of the dialog when the Man asks Luigi how he feels about choosing what to do, and the guy replies that it’s incredibly cool.
Something similar happens with Alex: his wish is not fulfilled when he directly tells his father that he loves him, as at that moment he is insincere. The second time they meet, the guy doesn’t say those words, yet he feels love for his father, and the man realizes it. This is enough to make Alex’s wish come true.
All of the above, as well as the way the fates of the visitors of the Man, suggests that the point of what is happening is not that people blindly perform tasks, but that they think about it, find the best traits in themselves, do the right and good deeds, so that their conscience wakes up. Those who do not do this, but do evil, are punished (Fulvio remains blind, Azzura dies, Odoacer probably does too. Ettore repents and goes to prison).
For other characters the outcome is favorable (Alex and Martina meet each other and are happy, sister Chiara hears God again, Luigi’s son recovers). Marcella stands out: it is not known what happened to her husband in the end, but since she realized the consequences of her possible action, it is likely that everything will end well for her.
In The Place, strangers to each other find themselves interconnected. Odoacer confronts Luigi, Martina meets Alex, Ettore’s son. Ettore himself becomes responsible for Azzura’s death. Chiara’s sister is involved with Fulvio. Marcella finds herself apart from the others, though she may have crossed paths indirectly with Sister Chiara and Fulvio. Perhaps the hidden meaning is that, according to the movie, she confronts the Man himself: she threatens to blow him up, informing him that if she is to become a murderer, let one villain be among her victims. Marcellus does not realize her intention, explicitly saying that she does not want to become like the Man because she hates him. In the end, the woman breaks the agreement by leaving the café.
The hidden meaning of such crossovers between characters is probably to show that everything in the world is interconnected. There is another theory: the one represented by the Man brings people together on purpose, thereby helping them to sort themselves out and, if they are willing to go all the way, to complete the task.
In the end, Fulvio never becomes sighted, and Sister Chiara hears God again. Odoacer saves the girl, preventing Luigi from killing her, but because he didn’t stop and continued to act on his own, he gets wounded. Luigi has it the other way around: by acting as he decided himself, he does not commit a crime, but his son recovers.
Martina and Alex find each other, and the boy also reconciles with his father. Azzura, who easily plays with people’s fates, dies, and the perpetrator of her death, Ettore, repents and goes to prison, but his dream comes true: his son returns to him. Only Marcella remains on the sidelines. However, perhaps she becomes the decisive factor after which the Man informs Angela of his wish: to stop performing his duties. Perhaps her true task is to help the Man himself to understand what he wants, to make a final decision and to express his dream when the opportunity arises. It is no coincidence that the scene with Marcellus turns out to be the final scene before the conversation with Angela.
The movie “The Place” invites us to think about the price people are willing to pay for their desires. It gives each viewer the opportunity to imagine himself in the place of the characters in the movie and try to understand what he would do to make his dream come true. The drama raises a lot of philosophical questions, which can be interpreted in different ways, expressing different points of view on what happens in the picture. There is also a lot of understatement in the movie: we do not know who Angela is, who the Man was, who makes wishes. On the one hand, it’s not particularly important: that’s not the point of the movie at all. On the other hand, the fact that these questions remain is logical and appropriate, given the content and meaning of The Place, which means that the director could have deliberately left them open to give the viewer a chance to think and put forward their own versions.
- Three Thousand Years of Longing (USA, Australia, 2022). A genie falls into the hands of a female literary scholar and offers to grant her three wishes.
- The Room (France, Belgium, 2018). A married couple finds a room in a new mansion where any wish is granted.
- Interstate 60 (Canada, USA). Neil Oliver meets a mythological character named O.J. Grant who grants human wishes.
- Perfect Strangers (Italy, 2015). Seven friends, gathered around a table, decide to play a game: read out all the text messages, and answer calls on speakerphone.
- The First Day of My Life (Italy, 2023). Four suicides find themselves in a deserted hotel after their deaths, where they spend seven days rethinking their lives and observing the world they left behind.
- Carnage (France, Germany, 2011). Two married couples get together to discuss their sons’ quarrel, but an innocuous conversation escalates into a real scandal.