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Review: La stanza

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- Stefano Lodovichi’s psychological thriller, on Amazon Prime Italy from 4 January, draws on The Shining and Psycho to explore the horrors of family life

Review: La stanza
Camilla Filippi and Guido Caprino, actors in Stefano Lodovichi’s La stanza

The worries and fragility of the parental role are at the heart of Stefano Lodovichi’s psychological thriller La stanza [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, a work which observes the passing of time, the piecing together of the past in new and different combinations, but also score settling and, ultimately, redemption. Premiering exclusively on Amazon Prime Video Italy from 4 January, the movie is the third feature directed by the thirty-seven-year-old, Grossetto-born helmer after Aquadro [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
in 2013, and the troubling work Deep In The Wood [+see also:
trailer
interview: Manuela Cacciamani
film profile
]
in 2015 with which promising director Lodovichi shuffled closer to genre film. And it’s the narrative thread of the latter title which we return to in La stanza: Deep In The Wood centred around a mother (Camilla Filippi) devastated by the disappearance of her 4-year-old son at a party in the Dolomites where people disguised as devils – Krampuses – terrorised the town. La stanza, meanwhile, is set in a beautiful, mysterious, Liberty-style urban villa (designed and recreated in Videa Studios by set designer Max Sturiale and art director Adriano Cattaneo) which is home to a desperate mother, once again played by the brilliant Camilla Filippi, and a little boy shut away in his bedroom.

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Dressed in her wedding gown, Stella is standing on the sill of a huge window, a storm raging in the background, ready to launch herself into the void, when a stranger rings at the doorbell. It’s Giulio (Guido Caprino, Sweet Dreams [+see also:
film review
trailer
Q&A: Marco Bellocchio
film profile
]
), an affable forty-year-old who claims to have booked a B&B room in the villa. It’s immediately clear that Giulio knows the house very well, not to mention Stella, and he spends a hurried moment socialising with her ahead of the arrival of her husband Sandro (Edoardo Pesce, whom Lodovichi is currently directing in the supernatural Sky Original crime drama series Christian), who has left her. What ensues is a tightly fought, close combat battle, both psychological and physical, between the three protagonists, leading to the film’s first twist and a fanta-metaphysical epilogue which we won’t go and spoil for the viewer.

In an online meeting with the press, the director explained that the film started out as a documentary about the phenomenon of hikikomoris: Japanese youngsters who shut themselves away in their homes. It’s a highly complex subject which the filmmaker has transposed into a fiction film with the intention of depicting the life of a (dysfunctional) modern family. “When I became a father myself, I looked back at my attitude as a son and saw that the accusations I’d directed towards my parents deserved to be revisited”. Having grown up surrounded by Stallone, Bruce Willis and Schwarzenegger films, Lodovichi cited role models of the highest order such as Michael Haneke, Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan - American blockbusters. On the hypothetical scale of auteur and genre films, the balance tipped in favour of the latter. And rightly so, because managing an important subject such as family dynamics in the writing phase and ensuring its appeal for the Amazon Prime Video audience wouldn’t have been an easy task. That said, we would have appreciated a more female approach towards this Lacanian crocodile mother who vents her deep angst, which is the foundation but also the darker undercurrent of life, according to Faust’s Goethe. As it stands, the screenplay was written by three men: the director, together with Francesco Agostini and Filippo Gili, whereas Deep In The Wood also bore the mark of Isabella Aguilar. And whilst Lodovichi’s directorial vocation is clear, not to mention his management of different time-periods in the film, the risks that come with genre cinema are the many, inevitable references, cross-references and quotations so often involved. La stanza borrows from The Shining and Psycho with a casualness which, at times, feels more contrived than amusing, though certain escalations of violence (involving a vacuum-packing machine) will make action fans smile.

The film is produced by Lucky Red.

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(Translated from Italian)

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