Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Screenplay: Giuseppe Tornatore, Massimo De Rita
Running time: 118 mins
Screening: Feb 15 GFT
Some films are hard to shake off, as the lights come up and you blink your way to the exit, images continue to flash through the mind and music rings in your ears. La Sconosciuta (the Unknown) is one of those films. 118 minutes of fast paced tension with a dramatic Ennio Morricone soundtrack, La Sconosciuta draws its audience into a dark and unsettling tale of exploitation and murder. From the opening scene it is clear that writer and director Giuseppe Tornatore is making a very different film from his charming 1988 success Cinema Paradiso. Three women in only their underwear stand with their backs to camera, a voice off screen instructs them to turn round, when they do they reveal frighteningly ugly masks. Throughout, the poetic style of strange imagery edited in sharp cuts with musical cues, gives a sense of a cinematic nightmare.
Xenia Rappaport plays Irena, the unknown woman of the title, whose motives only become clear in jig saw sized pieces of flashbacks and memories. Rappaport's intense performance is overwhelmingly the reason to watch this gripping story unfold. Irena is a strong character who has suffered many injustices as an ex-prostitute, yet Tornatore and Rappaport don't allow us to pity this woman; she is unpredictable and dangerous as well as paradoxically kind hearted. Performances all round are of similar quality including the brutish Michele Placido as a gangster and the young Clara Dossena, as the child put in Irena's care.
Shocking in its lack of sentimentality, La Sconosciuta is as haunting and beautiful as it is disturbing, creating a movie that once you get to know it, is impossible to forget.