An intimate exploration of what it is to love, Antonio Santini & Dan Sickles' Dina is an engrossing documentary that profiles the uneasy yet evolving relationship between Dina and her fiance Scott, following them in the months leading up to their wedding day. Both of these characters are somewhere along the autism spectrum, where precisely is intentionally unclear to the viewer, and through its pensive, static lens, Dina deconstructs the relationship between these two characters in a way that is both deeply personal and profoundly honest, while managing to tap into universal truths about love and companionship. Shot in a style that reminded me some of Ulrich Seidl, the filmmakers rely heavily on long static photography, the type of compositions and overall aesthetic that is intimate and observant, documenting these two individuals from a distance in a way that never feels the least bit intrusive. Managing to be both uproariously funny one minute, and introspective another, Dina is a film which manages to never reach for comedic aspirations at the expense of its characters, quickly dashing the potential exploitative qualities that ruin many films of this ilk. While Dina is without question the main character, it's through the portrait of these two characters in which Dina as a film manages to tap into the fundamental nature of companionship, detailing the highs and lows of any relationship, the insecurities and frustrations that arise, and the intrinsic need for sacrifice and honesty, exhibiting how with love, two individuals personal problems are now shared. For Dina and Scott, their main struggles relate to physical intimacy, with Dina being far more experienced and one with her carnal desires, while Scott is far more insecure, becoming uncomfortable in the face of merely hand-holding. Through these two character's struggles to express themselves to each other and work through their sordid issues, Dina as a film creates a compelling account of two individuals determined to carve out a future together, detailing how a large aspect of love is rooting in determination, faith, and commitment , as both Dina and Scott each at times struggle with their internal doubts/insecurities. Regulated to the background for much of the film, Dina's personal history is one that is plagued with trauma and heartbreak, yet the film doesn't let Dina's past disrupt the linear progression of the story, only detailing this past through abrupt stylistic moments, a decision which is not only more emotionally resonant in its reveal, but one that also serves a thematic assertion. Dina was violently stabbed in her past, and while the documentary hints at this early on, it only reveals her backstory fully towards the conclusion of the film, detached from the narrative thrust of Dina and Scott's progression to marriage. There is a darkness lurking in the past, one that infects the present in that it fuels Dina's insecurities, yet the presentation of this past trauma is a statement by the filmmakers, one that thematically asserts that love and companionship are far from easy, showcasing how we as individuals are all shaped both positively and negatively from our past experiences, and true love comes from sacrifice, understanding, determination, and mutual empathy. An eccentric love story that is funny, endearing, and introspective about love and companionship, Antonio Santini & Dan Sickles Dina is a testament to the power of intimacy and the resolve.
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