Saturday, 24 December 2016

In a Lonely Place

Director: Davide Montecchi
Writers: Davide Montecchi, Elisa Giardini
Producer: Meclimone
Cast: Lucrezia Frenquellucci, Luigi Busignani
Country: Italy
Year of release: 2016
Reviewed from: online screener
Website: Facebook

Within the first couple of minutes of my viewing of this film, one thing became clear to me. In a Lonely Place has absolutely the best cinematography of any independent film that I have ever seen in my entire life. Shot after shot after shot is drop-dead gorgeous. Long shots, two-shots, close-ups, static shots, panning shots: you could take a hi-res frame-grab from almost any moment in this film, blow it up, frame it and hang it in a gallery.

The light, the shadow, the colours and oh so many reflections. Mirrors make extra work for cinematographers, obviously, but In a Lonely Place is packed with mirrors. Mirrors on walls, mirrors on the floor, mirrors in front of someone, mirrors behind someone, shattered mirrors, multiple mirrors in one shot. Holy cow, this is visually the most amazing thing you’ll see all year.

Fabrizio Pasqualetto is the man responsible, and if there isn’t an Oscar somewhere in that man’s future, I’ll eat my hat. He paints with light.

A tip of the hat also to camera operator Lino Hermaus, focus puller Matteo Franca and digital image technician Guido Zamagni. Between them these four gentlemen have crafted something stunningly beautiful.

This could be the first film review in history to mention the focus puller before the director but that’s just because I wanted to acknowledge the camera crew up front. The whole film is the vision of Davide Montecchi, and what a vision it is. There are only two actors and, to be honest, not a vast amount of dialogue when you consider that the film runs only 80 minutes (plus credits) and numerous lines are repeated over and over again. But that just leaves more room for the film to be ‘a film’, exploring the possibilities of cinema.

Describing the ‘plot’ of In a Lonely Place would be like synopsising a poem. It would completely miss the point and belittle the work. (“A guy gets freaked because a raven flies into his library while he’s having a nap, and it causes him to think about his dead girlfriend…”) Lucrezia Frenquellucci is Theresa, a young woman who has been invited to visit an empty hotel. Luigi Busignani is Thomas, the man who invited her there, an obsessive, mentally disturbed stalker.

We open with Theresa tied to a chair, and then follow two narratives. In the main story Thomas abuses and tortures Theresa, both physically and mentally. Interspersed with this are flashbacks of earlier in the evening as they share a meal, she dresses in one of the hotel rooms, and then he takes some photographs of her. One story leads up to that opening shot, one leads away from it.

I did say that summing up the story would belittle the film. The above paragraph makes In a Lonely Place sound like trashy (if good-looking) torture porn. There are hundreds of micro-budget, misogynist ‘horror’ films that have basically the same ‘plot’ (a few, a very few, are actually worth watching). But you know, the world is also full of representations of ‘a beautiful man with an amazing physique flashing his cock’: 99.999% of those are gay porn, and then there’s Michelangelo’s David. I’m not belittling the gay porn industry – I know some great guys who make gay porn films – I’m just demonstrating how a very simple, essential concept can, in the right hands, treated and viewed in a special way, become something with not just genuine artistic merit but the sort of work that transcends conventional concepts of art to become iconic.

Through a combination of Montecchi’s direction, Pasqualetto’s photography and two excellent actors (working in a foreign language) – plus the many other crew who contributed, of course – this movie takes something which could be (and often is) tawdry and cheap and turns it into a work of art. I’m not saying it is actually as ‘good’, on some impossible, hypothetical scale of artistic quality, as David because, bloody hell, Michelangelo. I just want people to understand that the narrative content of the film, which is limited in the first place and will be naturally brief in descriptions, short reviews, film festival catalogues or DVD sleeves, is not a fair summation of the cinematic experience here.

Adding to all of this is the amazing location: a huge, empty, modern hotel. A landscape shot shows nothing nearby except a power station (though that may have been digitally altered of course). The interiors, whether they are genuinely part of that building or studio creations, are amazing. The main room where the primary story takes place has been carefully arranged so that every square centimetre contributes to the film’s look and feel. This hotel is disused but not derelict. It is in a mysterious, transitory state between a vibrant, busy place and an empty ruin, which places the limited story and the two characters in a sort of limbo, divorced from the real, outside world.

Ivana Alessandrini was the set designer and has done an amazing job which Montecchi and Pasqualetto have then taken and turned into magic. (Tip of the hat also to set decorator Diana Fazi and set dresser Annalena Piri.) If you ever wondered what ‘mise-en-scene’ actually means, take a look here.

One more striking visual is Luigi Busignani himself who has a fascinating, angular face that you won’t soon forget. He speaks with a strong accent: stressing, each, word, separately. Sometimes he whispers, sometimes he shouts, but he never tips over into being a cartoon psychopath. Lucrezia Frenquellucci’s performance is one of confusion and vulnerability but with determination below the surface. Her character is, apparently, a model/actress so it makes sense that she is beautiful, but in an interesting, human way, not an airbrushed, formulaic, magazine sort of way. Theresa’s voice has been looped by Barbara Sirotti; perhaps Frenquellucci has too strong an accent.

There is some violence and injury on screen, with special make-up effects provided by Mauro Fabrizcky. Be warned that there is also a disturbing (but entirely fake) moment of animal cruelty.

I don’t know what else I can tell you about In a Lonely Place. It is an extraordinary film. A true cinematic experience. Take the opportunity to watch it if you can.

MJS rating: A+

No comments:

Post a Comment