There is a sense of deja vu. Indeed, it feels like a giallo piece, a genre of cinema popularised in the ’70s that married the more ponderous elements of detective fiction with the out and out scares of horror. And it’s quickly established that this film will be both, as the opening credits tell audiences that the parents of the Durati children were found murdered. What follows is a gripping tale that attempts to piece together an answer, but for all the prolonged silhouettes and chilling moments of introspection, the film never loses focus on the family themselves.
Indeed, many of the film’s more touching moments centre on the family themselves . Cooking pasta for dinner, they wonder how much sugar is needed for their food. Then there’s Mateo Durati (Pasquale Lioi) who masquerades like the adolescent he is, aching for escapism beyond the prism of the windows of his house. Then there’s the mother, waking from her troubled sleep to bathe in the crisp Italian air. If it reads like a Michael Apted documentary, then you’re not far off, but the film takes a more sinister turn twenty three minutes in as the camera glides across the motorway, taking in every inch of mountainous terrain that it can manage.
Somewhere within the montage comes the sound of an idiosyncratic string section, suggesting that the story is about to change gears. When the mother returns to the house, it’s with a sense of despondency and disappointment, and the camera highlights her withdrawn look. Father Renzo (Canio Lancellotti) seems oblivious to her ennui, and the two spend much of their time passing each other, flitting like pawns on an ever changing chess board.
It’s strange to think that a person can surround themselves with such beauty, yet still feel so empty, but this again is part and parcel of the giallo genre. A fundamental aspect of giallo isn’t the scares or the thrills, but the dynamics and contradictions that await the protagonists. And in this scenario, we find a family (who, we are told, are soon to die), going through the rigours of their tapestry. Hope, as ever, proves the ultimate perfume, and the most devastating of enemies. But like every family, they unite under the pretence that an answer might await them, somewhere beyond the big, blue skies in front of them.
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