Shepherd Doc ‘The Creation of Meaning’ Finds Majesty in a Vanishing Way of Life


Pacifico Pieruccioni, the rangy, subtly charismatic sexagenarian at the center of Simone Rapisarda Casanova’s majestic documentary, his second feature-length project, couldn’t have a more suitable first name.

Unflappable, the shepherd, who tends his flock in the Apennine Mountains in Tuscany, calmly engages with all creatures, whether they have four feet or two. His serenity stands in sharp contrast with the bellicose history of the area, former site of the Gothic Line, the German bulwark in Italy during the final stages of World War II; about halfway through The Creation of Meaning, a group of Italian-resistance re-enactors shoot fake rifles near Pacifico’s property, their war games ending up as a film-within-the-film.

Like Rapisarda Casanova’s debut, The Strawberry Tree (2011), a loose, relaxed ethnography about a Cuban fishing village wiped out by a hurricane, The Creation of Meaning is about a way of life on the verge of extinction. A Pisa-dwelling German will soon take ownership of Pacifico’s land, an irony lost on neither man and one that this movie, assured in its rhythms and observations, doesn’t push to the point of redundancy.

“Sometimes I think Italians don’t deserve all the beauty that surrounds them,” the future landlord says. However uncharitable the remark may be, Rapisarda Casanova’s film shows just how much natural splendor dominates the region, here caught at the height of estival glory.

The Creation of Meaning

Directed by Simone Rapisarda Casanova

Opens December 17, MoMA