Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"The Other Woman" ("La sconosciuta"), an Italian thriller about motherhood and exploitation


The film “The Other Woman” (or “The Unknown Woman”, “La sconosciuta”, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore) might be viewed as the Italian equivalent of a Pedro Almodovar retrospective thriller, but here totally heterosexual and seemingly not narcissistic. In fact, it’s about the most basic of biological drives and emotions: motherhood, and the entire jigsaw mystery hangs on that point. But the backstory looks into the world of human trafficking. (A good comparison would be the Mexican film “Trade”, dir. Marco Kreuzpainter, from Roadside Attractions.) A Ukranian woman Irena (Ksenuya Rappoport) arrives in Italy and works her way into a wealthy home by janitorial work, and interviews her way into a job as a nanny for the little girl Thea (Clara Dossena), but only by subterfuge: befriending the current nanny and tripping her to fall. Through flashbacks, we learn that Irena had been forced to bear nine children, and believes that Irena is her youngest daughter. The back story shows that indeed “it’s hard out here for a pimp” (particularly when connected to the mob), whom Irena has to try to do in twice, before winding up in jail. Is Thea her child, and does it really matter in the end? The scenes with Thea are disturbing and hard to watch at times, as are other scenes of her horrific background.

The film, from an obscure theatrical distributor (Outsider) with DVD from Image, and production company Medusa, is quite professionally made, shot in 2.35:1, with a brooding music score by Ennio Morricone (the music resembles that of Richard Strauss), giving the film an almost operatic effect. (The detailed plot recalls Alfred Hitchcock, and sometimes the film use effects like those in "Vertigo" with a staircase scene.) The DVD subtitling has the annoying habit of displaying Final Draft action directions as well as the script.

Here is a YouTube review from “Instant Reviews”.

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