26 January 2011 | nickmovie-1
A Very Interesting Film Debut
The first of 19 titles directed by Germi, this film is impressive; mostly for the very solid direction of the actors. The main character trio also deserves special mention for the most notable acting featured. They are played by Roldano Lupi (whereas this performance of Lupi's is perhaps as impressive, or is more impressive, than in Il Dellito di Giovanni Episcopo, (directed by Alberto Lattuada) which is to be released next year), Marina Berti (whose simple but eloquent beauty probably has never been so well-explored) and Ernesto Almirante. As its title hints, the film takes on the tone of a moral fable. It may be compared with the tone of the more sophisticated work of Robert Bresson, and later, with that of Kieslowski (A Short Film About Killing). Stylistically, it is impossible not to link this production with neo-realist films for the massive use of locations. Otherwise, three perspectives differentiate it from neo-realist films: Firstly, its clear accomplishment is with the deft, cinematic representation of generic conventions; in which case, the fact that it's a suspense film seems to provide a kind of answer to American noir films. And it does so in a closeness more intense than in the work of Antonioni (e.g., Cronaca di un Amore), which is a characteristic trademark of Germi. Secondly, the film evokes a visual style that is indicative of being very self-conscious. Technically, this is accomplished by the beautiful shots/counter-shots made with frontal camera and fast editing, during the unique dialogue between Pietro and Andrea. (However, the intensive use of back shots, in the idyllic sequence that Pietro had his first intimate contact with Linda, resounds quite dissonantly with the style of the rest of the film.) Thirdly, like in classical cinema, there is a focus on the psychological aspects of the main characters, that engender the own narratives and which force the social commentaries and milieu to a background position. Set in the modern metropolis, the film documentary prologue with a voice-over narration (a characteristic present in other films that Germi directed thereafter, e.g., In Nome della Legge) that claims that in modern cities people who are physically proximate lack awareness of each other. It is important to note that the storyteller's only interest in the crime at the center of the plot is for the product thereof, i.e., a large sum of money that Pietro carries around with him. Critics could argue in hindsight that choosing not to describe the crime is a weakness at best (and possibly a fatal plot hole at worst). However, others may find cleverness in the fact that the film's narrative takes no interest in describing the crime for its own sake; thus relegating it to a certain imposing, nagging obscurity (i.e., the 12,000-pound elephant in the room). Regardless of one's preference, in this sense, the film differs from the typical Hollywood approach. Like Hitchcock's technique, the suspense is built between the spectator's conscience of the culpability of Pietro, and the characters' lack of consciousness of the same. The film's tacit critique of modernity seems sometimes fragmentary and not organically integrated with the narrative at all. That is the case for its accusation of bureaucracy in the situation the new couple asks for their wedding agreement, in a public office, where of there being irrationality in the realm of rational bureaucracy.