Halloween may have passed, but things will still go bump in the night on Saturday at Vineyard Haven’s Katharine Cornell Theatre when the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society screens “The Double Hour.” It’s an Italian thriller with more twists and turns than a pretzel and more than a tinge of horror.
Directed by Guiseppe Capotondi, this film will keep you guessing about who’s a good guy and who’s not, who’s alive and who’s dead. “La Doppia Ora,” as it’s called in Italiano, is done with the kind of polish that makes Milan one of the style capitals of the world (the film is set in Turin).
“The Double Hour” won Mr. Capotondi an award as the best Italian Film, and Best Actor awards for its co-stars at the Venice Film Festival.
Slovenian immigrant Sonia (Russian actor Kseniya Rappoport) works as a maid in an Italian hotel. When she puts her hair up to clean a hotel room bathroom, the woman in the room tells her she looks better with her hair down. Then the hotel client jumps out the window.
It’s the first of numerous shocking twists and turns in this often overwrought but always appealing melodrama. Sonia heads to a speed-dating establishment, where she meets handsome, melancholic Guido (Filippo Timi).
Let’s “Leave the sad stuff at home,” they agree, but go their separate ways. Outside they walk together until Guido sees that the time is 23:23 pm and tells Sonia about the custom of making a wish when the clock shows double hours. It’s all deliciously, romantically heavy-handed in a very operatic fashion.
Another shocking reversal occurs when Guido runs into his pal Dante. More and more details unfold as the evidently star-crossed couple gets to know each other. Along with some torrid sex scenes, even more shockers ensue.
Both central characters are pleasingly fleshed out through their friendships and, in Sonia’s case, her fractured relationship with her father. Once robbery and murder enter the picture, the focus shifts entirely to Sonia.
The director fills “The Double Hour” with recurrent motifs like Sonia swimming, and handsome imagery like the exquisite cemetery shot. Loss haunts these characters as surely as unrequited love.
Nicholas Roeg’s wonderful “Don’t Look Now” (1973) echoes through “The Double Hour.” Based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier, set in Venice and starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, “Don’t Look Now” has the same mix of mystery, ghosts and sorrow — if not the same kind of romance. Surely “The Double Hour’s” director must have seen it.
Three intriguing clues to puzzle over in “The Double Hour” are who Dolores Dominguez is, what the red bedspread is doing on the balcony, and what Buenos Aires has to do with Sonia and Guido. See if you can solve the mystery before the movie ends.
In addition to its ratiocinatory pleasures, “The Double Hour’s” sound track goes a long way towards persuading the viewer to believe in the story of Sonia and Guido. Particularly haunting is the birdsong that Guido recorded during his stint as a security guard and that both Sonia and Guido enjoy listening to.
Any thriller worth its salt leaves the viewer a little unsettled, a little bamboozled. The question in “The Double Hour” is, who’s more bamboozled: Guido, Sonia, or the viewer?
“The Double Hour,” Saturday, Nov. 5, 7:30 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $8; $5 MVFS members. Doors open at 7 pm. For more information, see mvfilmsociety.com.
Freelance writer Brooks Robards divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Northampton.