'Dina' tests the audience with a sweet, unconventional love story
Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles have created a sweet and interesting look into the relationship of Dina and Scott, a couple who are both afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome. The camera disappears behind the couple’s daily interactions with each other and the world around them as the documentary follows their relationship from the day that they move in together to their marriage and ends with them returning from their honeymoon. The camera is almost too good, constantly being one step ahead of the couple to the point that the filmmakers may have pushed the couple to act a certain way or move to a specific location. But, tears, laughter and the interesting story take hold of the audience as more of the story unfolds and a dark history is revealed to contrast the kindness and romance of the couple.
“Dina” begins on the day before Scott moves out of his parents’ home and into Dina’s apartment. They are both in their late 40s and while Scott has never had a true relationship before Dina, his fiancee, is a widow and is very open about her previous relationships. The directors slowly reveal each new bit of information about the two and their histories as the movie continues, eventually revealing that Dina was involved in many abusive relationships. The scars become more and more noticeable as her daily ritual is filmed with the emphasis becoming more focused on her back. Dina vocalizes her problems with Scott as mainly focusing around sex; Scott has never had sex, while Dina has been in multiple sexual relationships. The two have arguments and each wants something from the other that they can’t fully get, but they are still married and expected to share a life together.
The cinematography is key to the success of the film. Stunning fixed camera angles bring a different feel to the audience when compared to most documentaries that use the shaky camera effect. This can either be interpreted as the directors representing the mindset of those who have autism or Asperger’s, or it just shows how staged the documentary is. It is hard to figure out just from watching the film, but one can easily see how well done the shots and framing are, especially for a documentary.
Depending on the audience, the story itself is either incredibly moving and meaningful, or just a simple story that does not have any conflict or end up anywhere. The difficulty surrounding the story and the documentary itself is determining how true and real the story is. The basics of the story are true: Dina and Scott both have mental disabilities, they are getting married, Dina definitely has a troubled history, but how much of the conflicts and plot points are real?
The issue with having such a static camera is that it is easy to tell when moments are heavily staged. The two have a small discussion in a movie theater with the camera far away and a bright light pointing at them; obviously this scene did not take place during a film even though they are discussing whatever is happening on the movie screen. Another moment, later on, Dina tells Scott that she wants to be sexually intimate. Multiple cameras are set up from afar to track them as they walk to a bench, where, conveniently, multiple cameras are setup to capture their discussion.
“Dina” is still a heartwarming story that uses breathtaking cinematography to help tell the story of Dina and Scott. The documentary is successful in showing a different and relatively unknown part of the human experience, and while it can be rather uneventful at times, it is still an interesting topic. Whether or not most of it was staged is something to take into account, but can be ignored for the sake of the filmmaking skill on display.
“Dina” was released October 6.
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