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November 03, 2018

Denver Film Festival - Naples in Veils

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Napoli velata
Ferzan Ozpetek - 2017
Warner Brothers (Italy)

The first shot in Naples in Veils is of a spiral staircase. The shape is oblong rather than round, with perspective flattened, the camera itself spinning around. That opening image has suggestions of Vertigo, and there are some similarities to be found without the film being in any direct way an echo of Hitchcock. The staircase leads to an apartment where a man staggers out, shot to death by a woman. The murder is witnessed by a young girl. How this fits in with the main narrative is revealed later.

An attractive woman of what the French call "a certain age" meets a handsome young man at a party. Adriana invites the man, Andrea, to her apartment. The two have a night of steamy, passionate sex. Andrea leaves the next morning with a promise to meet Adriana at a museum. Adriana goes to the museum, thinking about Andrea as she gazes upon the statues and paintings of nude men. Andrea doesn't show up. When Adriana, a medical examiner, is called to do an autopsy the next day, she realizes that the murdered man is Andrea, with his eyes gouged out. The police reveal that Andrea took photos of Adriana nude while she was sleeping.

Naples in Veils flips the genders of Vertigo with an older woman and a younger man. Adriana sees men she mistakes for Andrea. The two films share the idea of a person seeking a twin to replace the deceased loved one. The distorted sense of perspective in that opening shot anticipates Adriana's own distorted views, her increasing paranoia as she learns more about Andrea.

In a museum, the surrounding walls have veils meant to symbolize the lifting of magic and superstition to make way for the knowledge of medical science. For Adriana, events in her life can not be rationally explained. Ozpetek also contrasts the classical art of Naples, and the opulence of an aunt's apartment, "a mausoleum of memories", with Adriana's very modern, sun filled apartment. There are also images of a single eye the recur, with a jewel in an eye-shaped setting adding to the mystery. Parts of the film are deliberately ambiguous, reflecting the way Ozpetek views Naples. In one interview, Ozpetek has also explained: "Of course there is a strong feeling of death in the air, but Neapolitans play with it and make it into something that there is nothing to be afraid of in it."

Naples in Veils received several nominations for the 2018 David di Donatello Awards, Italy's equivalent to the Oscars, winning for cinematography and production design.

At this time, Naples in Veils does not have U.S. distribution. Festival viewing is encouraged.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 3, 2018 09:20 AM