Friday, August 14, 2009

The Unknown Woman: Grade B

The Unknown Woman (2006)
Kseniya Rappoport, Clara Dossena; Co-writer and director Giuseppe Tornatore. (Italian, subtitled).

A young Ukranian woman (Rappoport) searches for work as a cleaning woman in northern Italy. Gradually we discover that it is not just any work she wants; she must work in a particular apartment building. Then by hook and crook, she wheedles her way into a position as a maid/nanny for a particular family. Why she is stalking this family, we do not know, but the tension is palpable. Through a series of brief but graphic flashbacks, we discover that she had been a sex slave in the Ukraine. She escaped by killing her boss in a gory, blood-soaked scene, and she took his stash of cash also. Inevitably, the Ukrainian bad guys are after her and the money. Slowly we learn why she is interested the Italian family, and at the same time is pursued by her old Ukranian boss, despite him being dead (she has to kill him again). It makes no sense at all. There are many other inexplicable non-sequiturs in the story and the ending is particularly unsatisfying. The brutal violence in the sex slavery scenes is hard to take, but it is integral to the story and not merely exploitative.

The pace is too slow, as European movies are for Americans. I could easily have edited 30 minutes out of the two hour run time. On the plus side, the movie is beautiful. It is very finely directed (Tornatore did Cinema Paradiso), and superbly acted. Sets and costumes are perfect. The story has just enough direction to carry us through the scenes, even if it does not add up in the end. You watch this movie for the exquisite acting, excellent directing, thoughtful photography, and lovely language. Overall, it is a worthwhile and memorable movie experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment