1963, Italy, directed by Ermanno Olmi
Like Olmi's previous film, Il Posto, I Fidanzati has the slightest of premises - here, the departure of a young Milanese man for a new job in Sicily, and the impact of the distance on his relationship with his fiancée - that functions as a starting point for a series of explorations of different forms of understanding and communication. Just as the young man's lonely existence prompts him to re-evaluate what he has left behind, and what that might imply for his future, he is also forced to confront and attempt to understand a culture that is in many ways as alien as that of a foreign country, even a century after Italian unification. Even as he narrates this encounter, though, Olmi also underlines the homogeneity of other modern institutions, with the protagonist living much of his life in a series of blandly functional buildings, which could be anywhere in the country (both films depict eating in a strikingly unromantic way, given the normal presentation of food in films from and about Italy).
Although the main characters aren't always thoroughly developed - at times, they recall the flat non-characters of a film like L'Année dernière à Marienbad - Olmi's eye for the details of human behaviour serves him well, and the sketches of minor characters are engaging and often witty, while he finds a strange and compelling beauty in some of the industrial settings of the film, whether captured in a fluid tracking shot near the beginning, or in a long shot of a building cascading with showers of welding sparks.