Sunday, July 20, 2008
The Unknown Woman (La sconosciuta)
Giuseppe Tornatore's heartwarming "Cinema Paradiso" (Nuovo cinema Paradiso) won him an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1990. Since then, few of his work have been widely released except the fascinating "Malèna" in 2000. Luckily, we do not have to wait for another 10 years to see his next major released film. His suspenseful thriller "The Unknown Woman" (La sconosciuta, Italy 2006, 118 min.) brings him back to the spotlight. It won five David di Donatello, the Italian equivalent to the Oscar, for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Music, and Best Cinematography.
The "unknown woman" is Irena (Xenia Rappoport), a Ukrainian woman coming to Italy looking for a job as a maid. She does everything she can to become a beloved nanny for an adorable little girl Thea (Clara Dossena) from a wealthy Adacher family. However, that is just the very beginning of this "unknown" woman's unknown mission.
That is all about the plot that I want to reveal because suspense is an essential element about this film. The story is carefully constructed to keep us engaged and intrigued, even though the effort to make the film artificially suspensive is quite evident sometimes. It works, mostly.
The film uses numerous flashbacks to indicate that Irena has an unsettling past. However, the mystery surrounding her present quest is even more captivating. Although a few scenes seem to exist for the thrilling effect instead for the logic of the story, in the end, most jigsaw puzzle pieces fall into places where they belong.
The haunting music in the film is composed by the legendary composer Ennio Morricone, who received an Honorary Academy Award last year for "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music." It is remarkable that he composed the music for this film before the shooting. Perhaps only a master is able to do so.