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August 06, 2019

The Girl in the Fog


La ragazza nella nebbia
Donato Carrisi - 2017
Icarus Films Home Video R1 DVD

The Italian mystery writer, Donato Carrisi, has made his filmmaking debut, adapting one of his own novels into film. Carrisi's efforts were considered good enough that he was awarded the 2017 David di Donatello award, Italy's version of the Oscars, for Best New Director. I've not read the source novel so I am unable to comment on any changes. Carrisi does demonstrate visual flair, with the only weak spot being the final would-be twist at the end which should only surprise viewers not paying attention to several verbal and visual clues.

The story takes place in a small village in the Italian Alps where the residents all seem to know each other, and what tourist industry existed has virtually evaporated. A high school age girl, Anna Lou, has disappeared just prior to Christmas. Celebrity detective Vogel has taken on the case, bringing with him a small army of journalists and investigators. Vogel has become something of a reality television star. He is dogged by possibly misidentifying a serial bomber who was eventually found innocent. Vogel is intent on solving the mystery of Anna Lou, even at the cost of his reputation.

The first image is of Anna's house in the fog. The haze, the flatness, and limited nighttime colors initial make the image look like an illustration. Some of the other exterior shots give the impression of cardboard houses on an artificial studio set. The fog even carries over to the interior sets. There are also images within the shots, often of televisions set to the news, but also computer screens, and a VHS tape. These images within the image bring up the questions regarding the trustworthiness of what is supposedly documented. Carrisi also divides some of the sequences with overhead shots of a model version of the village, akin to something created from a fairy tale wooden toy shop. The village is pointedly remote, with the residents deliberately keeping themselves at a distance from aspects associated with life in the major cities. There are moments when Vogel appears to be visiting an alien landscape.

Carrisi uses a good number of overhead shots, as well as slow dolly shots, with the camera moving in or away from his characters. Most of the narrative is a series of flashbacks of Vogel's initial investigation from his point of view, as well as a sub-plot of Vogel's suspect. The actual mystery, or perhaps I should say mysteries, are subordinate to the themes of how public images are manipulated, and how an anonymous crowd response to those images.

Toni Servillo stars here as Vogel. Best known for his award winning performance in The Great Beauty, Servillo brings from that film the continued sense of someone world weary, who has seen and done everything, for whom nothing is new. Jean Reno appears as a psychiatrist with whom Vogel discusses the case, as part of an unofficial return to the scene of the crime. A virtually unrecognizable Greta Scacchi has a small role as a journalist whose decades long investigation suggest new clues.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 6, 2019 07:43 AM