DIRECTED BY: Giuseppe Capotondi
FEATURING: Ksenia Rappoport, Filippo Timi, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno, Fausto Russo Alesi
PLOT: After surviving a gunshot wound to the head, a woman is haunted by apparitions of the dead and visions from what seem to be an alternate, but parallel version of her life.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: The Double Hour keeps us guessing as to whether we are watching a supernatural chiller or a psychological thriller as it shifts from reality to fantasy and back again. The technique is disorienting, but effective for presenting the story in a creative, unconventional way, and produces a viewing experience that is at times slightly surreal, and definitely perplexing and weird.
COMMENTS: Wow! Guiseppe Capotondi’s stylish, haunting mystery, wrought with paradoxes and disturbing plot twists, really kept me guessing and thinking. The heroine’s perplexing afflictions are in some way personally relevant to her, but instead of clarifying what has happened, they further darken the murky conundrum into which she inexorably spirals in this smoldering, claustrophobic thriller. Capotondi cleverly wields suspense and uncertainty so as to merge the lead character’s unfolding impressions with our viewing experience so that I found myself drawn into her to nightmare as if it were my own.
Strong performances glue The Double Hour‘s convoluted, anomalous elements together into a cohesive, atmospheric mystery. Stars Filippo Timi and Ksenia Rappoport won 2009 Venice Film Festival awards for their roles. Armchair sleuths will find themselves put to the test to try to untangle a twisty path of clues in The Double Hour. With a finale similar to The Butterfly Effect II, everything comes together in the end with no red herrings, but even the most intrepid brainteaser trailblazer will have to lift the double bill of his deerstalker cap to scratch his brow in consternation after the 20 minute mark.
The Double Hour takes it’s name from those times during the day when the numerals designating hour and minutes match. Such as 10:10, or on a 24 hour clock, 22:22. In The Double Hour, these instances hold a special significance: it’s rumored one can wish on them and the wish will come true. They seem to figure prominently in Sonia’s (Rappoport) life, coinciding with strategic events.
Sonia is a chambermaid working in an upscale hotel. She is hounded by bizarre occurrences. After a hotel guest in a room assigned to Sonia leaps off her balcony, the maid takes up a romance with Guido (Timi), a guard at a wealthy absentee land owner’s estate. While visiting her boyfriend, professional criminals raid the manor, holding Guido and Sonia hostage while they loot the mansion of art treasures. Events run awry when Guido tries to protect Sonia. A shot is fired, and everything goes black. It’s unclear what happened.
This is where The Double Hour, already a romance and now a crime caper, completely departs from what the viewer is expecting and plunges into the realm of the eerie and bizarre. The film takes up with Sonia back at work at the hotel as if nothing has happened, but clearly her world is sliding off its axis. Sonia’s life shifts back and forth between light and dark, with a maddeningly indiscernible, sickeningly deliberate design. Phantasmal apparitions and unnerving coincidences begin to gaslight the moments of her day, appearing at those times marked by double digits on the clock.
Disquieted again and again by contact from the other side, Sonia questions her interpretation of reality. How far can we trust our senses to tell us what is real? At what point does subjective experience part from objective truth? Like a Gordian tangle of thread unraveling from some bedeviled funeral shroud, Sonia’s effort to decipher her burgeoning enigma is predicated by a series of uncanny twists and turns, each successive development hurtling all that has preceded it into uncertainty.
As Sonia drifts through a limbo, The Double Hour deftly, seamlessly crosses multiple genre boundaries, from mystery, to horror, to thriller, keeping us off balance and agitated. Just as we begin to draw conclusions, the storyline bends and splits yet again down another unexpected course.
Do our lives co-exist on parallel planes, where mere chance causes outcomes to diverge into differing pathways? If we could wish to reverse tragedies, could things ever really be the way they were knowing what we know now? Be careful what you wish for. We can only watch powerlessly as Sonia discovers whether or not destiny compels those alternate pathways to converge with an eerily vexing prearrangement upon the manifestation of The Double Hour.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“A love story wrapped in a way-twisty thriller, this Italian film was made to mess with our heads.”–Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times (contemporaneous)