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la Sconosciuta

Posted: September 8th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Lots of sound and fury over “piracy” of music and films. One situation where there’s no grounds for compliant must be those films that hardly get shown in cinemas in this country, i.e. anything with subtitles. Picking random torrents off of the Pirate Bay isn’t for the faint-hearted but it does turn up some gems.

La Sconosciuta is an Italian thriller from a couple of years back, more indebted to Hitchcock than the giallo / Argento tradition. Has a very muted palette for one thing and the similarly-murky morality makes it a more mature piece of work.

A woman arrives in an Italian city, blank and hollow, with a number of secrets in her past. What’s her motivation for inserting herself so determinedly into the life of, first this apartment block then this family? All standard thriller stuff, but what makes the film stand out is the shifting sands of your sympathies for the main character. Is she victim or villain? Why is she stalking these people and what does she want with the child?

That relationship with the child is the (rather cauterised) emotional heart of the film, fascinating and disturbing. There’s a lengthy scene where the child is being taught to be stand up for herself by being pushed over with bound hands and feet. It goes on and on, the kid gets more and more upset and is extremely uncomfortable to watch. Yet at other times it’s clear that she cares deeply for the child. The ambiguity introduces tension over and beyond the whodunnit? aspects and makes the film one that would probably repay repeat viewing.

Without the Pirate Bay, would it be possible to see this film in this country? It might’ve got a couple of showings on the arthouse circuit, I don’t remember it. Otherwise I think you’d have to wait for a Hollywood remake where the “difficult” parts would be removed to make it a story of redemption and you’d find yourself wondering what the fuss was about.

So I’m with the pirates. AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgh!

Stan Tontas

Stan lives in Glasgow.

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