“The devil’s greatest flaw is his vanity”
Donato Carrisi not only penned the 2015 novel that inspired the Italian psychological thriller The Girl in the Fog (Italian: La ragazza nella nebbia, 2017), but he was also the one who directed the film. With a complex and multilayered stack of mysteries to tackle, the film quite easily shifts from a whodunnit-style mystery to a chilling reflection on human nature.
With the disappearance of 16-year-old Ana Lou (Ekaterina Buscemi) keeping the inhabitants of a tiny mountain village up at night, inspector Vogel (Toni Servillo) is called in to set facts straight. However, as his methods are anything but orthodox, his investigation quickly turns into a witch-hunt for the most likely culprit, and not necessarily the right one. As lines begin to blur and reflect the dichotomy of the world’s righteousness, a greater mystery waits to be unfolded.
Federico Masiero’s masterful cinematography sets the stage with black and honey-gold tones, submerging the white town in a thick fog that reminds one of a viscous egg yolk. The film’s visual appeal is also brought to the surface through the play of lights, using police LED lights, camera flashes and flickering street lamps to erect a Christmas tree brimming with secrets – ones that linger on frozen faces between one swipe of light and the next.
With the standard introduction of foreboding faces and distant gazes meant to instil a sense of unease in the audience, the film does something quite unexpected by toying with its stillness through Vito Lo Re’s often contrasting musical scores. This dualism of suspense complements the duplicitous behaviour of the characters, robbing us of our preconceived notions of good and evil. As it is stated as some point: “very quiet places kill”.
The film’s complexity gains substance through its changing POV, jeering at the idea of an antagonist. By subverting linear storytelling and tapping into emotional reasoning that is quite capable of justifying evil deeds, The Girl in the Fog digs deep between the ribs and seizes the viewers’ racing hearts. One suspects the protagonist of crimes just as vile as the ones the antagonist would feel compelled to carry out, and by reducing the audience to such a suspicious state, Donato Carrisi presents the worst terror of all – fearing the people you trust.
The audience is never walked through the intrigue, but is trusted, instead, to float along patiently to the source of its unnerving clarity. New dangers and mounting suspicions are sprung on us quite suddenly, testing our allegiance to the characters, as well as the narrative we have chosen to adhere to. By the end, it becomes quite clear that no one is to be trusted, and no word to be accepted unequivocally. And with the film’s dialogue spun into a poetic web of understatements, everyone’s attention is bound to be grasped firmly until the very end.
Amazon, Netflix, Kanopy