Title: The Double Hour
Director: Giuseppe Capotondi
Starring: Filippo Timi, Ksenia Rappoport, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno, Fausto Russo Alesi, Michele Di Mauro
A sort of poison pill for arthouse enjoyers of square-jawed foreign film literalism, Italian import The Double Hour, which scored three top prizes at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, is a woozy and engaging romantic mystery loosely in the vein of Wicker Park, Swimming Pool or even Jacob’s Ladder. It’s not for all tastes, but the movie’s superlative lead performances give it an undeniable hold.
The film starts out as a seemingly fairly straightforward drama of lonely hearts disengagment. At a speed-dating event, mousey, unhappy hotel maid Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport) meets the mysterious Guido (Filippo Timi), who turns out to be a widower and former cop turned security guard. They circle each other cautiously, seemingly still marked by past hurts. Guido eventually makes a move, but it’s at his place of business, where a group of robbers burst in and menacingly hold them at gunpoint. After a gunshot, we jump forward a couple of weeks, and follow Sonia as she tries to put her life back together following Guido’s death.
Soon, however, strange things start happening. A picture of the two of them that Sonia can’t recall ever being taken surfaces, and she starts hearing unusual noises, and then seeing Guido. When her friend and coworker (Antonia Truppo) commits suicide, it seems to hearken back, in bizarre fashion, to a similar horrific incident she earlier witnessed. Is she going insane? Is Guido actually alive? Is a cop pressing for more answers regarding the incident trying to ensnare her in a lie, or merely confuse her?
Director Giuseppe Capotondi’s debut film is marked by a cool assurance, and a certain rejection of formalism. More melancholic than feverish, it unfolds like a forlorn drama in a series of plaintively framed medium shots, even when its narrative pivots and takes the story in a darker direction. Working from a script by Alessandro Fabbri, Stefano Sardi and Ludovica Rampoldi, Capotondi doesn’t flash forward and back so much as play with non-specific gaps in time to create an atmosphere where nearly every sequence seems fraught with hidden meaning, depending on where it falls in juxtaposition to what proceeds and follows it. He bogs down some in a third act laden with a bit too much exposition and explication, overly concerned with bringing clarity to what was previously ambiguous.
Still, The Double Hour‘s lead performances make it an involving head trip — a thought-provoking movie at its core (arguably) about the corrosive effects of guilt. Timi, best known to American arthouse audiences for his portrayal of Benito Mussolini in Marco Bellochio’s Vincere, here gets to sort of play both lion and lamb, as his arc takes him from a mysterious (and potentially dangerous) character into more reactive territory. Rappoport, meanwhile, has a face that haunts, not easily yielding answers or giving comfort. The uncertainty, romantic and otherwise, that the film evokes will be queasily familiar to anyone who’s looked upon a lover and wondered, “Who is this person?”
Written by: Brent Simon