Director: Ivan Zuccon
Writer: Ivan Zuccon
Producers: Valerio Zuccon, Donatella Ravagnani
Cast: Caterina Zanca, Roberta Romagnoli
Year of release: 1998
Reviewed from: screener DVD
Years ago, before I met him at Cannes, before he made his first feature, Ivan Zuccon’s style was evidently already established. All the elements are here: a semi-derelict house, sudden and bloody violence, a dose of Catholic iconography, a mixture of colour, black and white and sepia photography; above all there’s a confidently cavalier attitude to the concept of a temporal narrative structure, so that all the scenes effectively happen at the same time.
Based on an idea by Enrico Saletti (writer of Unknown Beyond and The Shunned House), this is the short on which Bad Brains was based, and indeed that’s the English title of this too. But this was really just inspiration for the later feature, rather than telling the same story; it reminded me in that sense of the way that Twelve Monkeys was supposedly a ‘remake’ of La Jetée, even though they have almost nothing in common beyond one basic idea.
The idea here is matricide. Caterina Zanca (who went on to be in both Beyond films) plays the daughter, pigtailed and dressed like a little girl though she is at least a teenager. Roberta Romagnoli (Unknown Beyond - and set designer on The Shunned House) is the mother, calmly knitting. The film raises the question of how can a loving parent defend themselves against a murderous child, although it doesn’t really explore the notion in depth. Special effects man Massimo Storari, who provides the requisite blood, appears briefly right at the end in a twist which, while it may feel like a bit of a cheat, puts the story into the context that it needs.
The two actresses both acquit themselves well in roles that could easily have been played over the top. Ivan’s direction, coupled with his roles as DP and editor, is assured and surprisingly mature, considering that he had only been making films for three years (this is the second title in his official filmography, after L’Altrove, the original short version of what would become The Darkness Beyond). The film benefits from a second showing which allows one to enjoy the editting that shuffles the story backwards and forwards, as well as the camera work which easily overcomes the flatness of image that is unavoidable with video. Roberto Manuzzi, one of Italy’s top jazz musicians, provided the effective score, Erika Scarpante was responsible for the costumes and the sound effects are credited to Acid Vacuum.
Degenerazione makes an interesting companion piece to Bad Brains and hopefully will be included as an extra on the DVD of that film.
MJS rating: B+
review originally posted 21st March 2006