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DIRECTED BY: Fabio D’Orta
FEATURING: David White, Michele Venni, Cesare Bonomelli, Enzo Solazzi
PLOT: An out of work cook needs cash, and a mysterious organization can provide it, so long as he is willing to undergo temporary possession.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: D’Orta’s background in commercials, music videos, and set design is on display here—in a mighty fine way, to be sure. And while there are plenty of odd flourishes, ornate screen compositions, and the noodle-scratching premise itself, the “entities,” and their grand bejeweled appearance, is what delightfully seared my mind.
COMMENTS: There is a villa deep in the Italian countryside, and every so often a shining black Mercedes saloon pulls up to deliver a new occupant. This guest is, invariably, a middle-aged man with scant prospects and no family to speak of—but in good health. The management prefers the men be hard-up loners; the “clientele” prefer them healthy.
My thoughts on art house films would be more positive if there were more art house paranormal thrillers. The Complex Forms is among the few of those. (I’d be interested to hear further recommendations in the comments.) The action takes place in a hotel that looks plucked straight out of Marienbad, with officious, cryptic—and friendly—staff. We are often assured that, once an occupant leaves, “He’s fine. He’s left the villa. Nothing to worry about. Go back to your rooms.” While this would be unconvincing on its own, it’s typically intoned after a dramatic visitation from the beings who occupy the woods surrounding the lushly appointed edifice.
D’Orta’s film is an always beautiful, often menacing, and occasionally puzzling examination of angst, ritual, and time, done up in the guise of a horror film that occasionally borders on creature feature. The rote choreography of the dispirited guests, whether synchronicly mopping or dining in isolated assembly, lends a monastic quality to the film, while the protagonist’s occasional nightmares and growing fear spike the proceedings like a thumbtack jabbed, ever so slightly, under the fingernail.
And then, as I’ve mentioned, there are those sylvan forms. Are they are what the title refers to? Probably yes; but, the film does kick off with the main character filling in an exhaustive survey before traveling to the villa. No matter. D’Orta has crafted a playful and enigmatic debut, whose slick looks and cheeky musical cues meld perfectly with the heavy melodrama of the narrative. And in addition, he does us the favor of serving up many memorable, majestic monsters.