Wednesday, 20 February 2008

GFF Review: The Girl By The Lake - by Robert Duffin

Director: Andrea Molaioli
Screenwriter: Sandro Petragalia
Running Time: 95mins
Certificate: TBC

In her debut feature film, director Andrea Molaioli clearly understands the “game” of the murder mystery. As the film opens, we follow eight-year-old Martha (Nicole Perrone) as she toddles off to school through the idyllic Italian village where everybody gives her a warm “good morning.” In an excruciatingly tense long shot, we see her accept a lift from a stranger, who turns out to be a lumbering simpleton named Mario (Franco Ravera). He takes Martha home to show her his pet rabbits and…she totters home safely. She’s not the girl of the title, and with one devilish red herring we’re quickly aware that nothing will be as it seems from her on in.

The girl of the title is Anna (Alessia Piovan) found strangled by the lake, leaving behind an endless stream of potential suspects: her abrasive boyfriend Roberto (Denis Fasolo), slightly perverted father Davide (Marco Baliani), and, of course, village fool Mario. Into the Italian Dolomites comes the world weary Inspector Giovanni Sanzio (Toni Servillo) who is looking to solve yet another case, if only to shut out his own personal problems.

Mercurial, with a biting wit, Sanzio does not suffer fools gladly and Servillo gives a masterful performance, channelling years of hurt through his soulful eyes and hand dog expressions. Molaioli gives very assured direction for a first time filmmaker, casting a looming shadow over the tranquil town in a way eerily reminiscent of another small town where a young woman turned up dead in the water, “wrapped in plastic”. Unfortunately the Twin Peaks comparison shows up this films only major flaw; there’s a sense of a serial story, even once the final frame has come and gone we don’t delve nearly enough into the darkness that lives beneath the surface of the extended cast. In spite of this, The Girl By The Lake is haunting, cold, and best of all, a whodunit with real mystery at its core.

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