|Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport) is a chambermaid and Guido (Filippo Timi) is an ex-cop in “The Double Hour.’’ (Samuel Goldwyn Films)|
Thriller takes on twice the twist: Ambiguity drives ‘Double Hour’
Smoldering and slick, “The Double Hour’’ wants to mess with your head. This Italian romantic thriller, directed by Giuseppe Capotondi in 2009 and coming to local theaters after a tour of the international festival circuit, woos the viewer with sexy leads, inscrutable motivations, and a hell of a curveball at around the 60-minute mark. What appears at first to be a Euro variation on David Lynch’s patented mind games, though, ultimately settles for more conventional pleasures. The movie makes sense, more’s the pity, although you may need to see it twice to figure out how.
“The Double Hour’’ keeps an audience off balance from the very start, when a young woman in a Turin hotel suite jumps out a window for no reason we’ll ever know. The only witness to her death is a chambermaid, Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport), to whom this is just the latest mystery in a capricious universe.
Sonia, a Slovenian immigrant with Modigliani eyes and a weary grace, seems worn down by events unknown, so when she meets Guido (Filippo Timi) at a speed-dating event, our hearts go out to the two — they seem twinned in exhausted eroticism. A widower and an ex-cop, Guido carries baggage of his own, but the shy Sonia brings out the romantic in him, and he takes her to the country estate where he’s consulting as a security expert. Then things happen, followed by other things, and far be it from me to spoil the game.
In the aftermath of what seems to be a crime and a tragedy, Sonia finds herself in uncharted territory, dogged by a detective (Michele Di Mauro) and a creepy hotel guest (Fausto Russo Alesi) and haunted by a real or imagined Guido. Is she paranoid? Insane? A victim or a victimizer? This is Polanski territory, rich in psychological ambiguity and with few solid signposts, and Capotondi gives it a good, chic go. Rappoport has a lived-in beauty that keeps us on the hook even as the oddities mount, and her internalized performance intriguingly splits the difference between a woman who’s timid and a woman who has something to hide.
The title refers to those 24 times a day that the hours and minutes match — 12:12, 1:01, 2:02, and so on — when the universe briefly pauses and strange things can happen. Similarly, pairings and mirror images are a recurrent theme here. Everyone has his or her doppelganger except Sonia, although by the end it’s pretty clear that she’s her own double. The film passes wrenchingly through the looking glass at a certain point, after which the audience has to reassess everything it has seen so far. Since the heroine is doing the same, at least we’ve got company.
Toward the end, the movie reinvents itself yet again as a sort of sideways film noir, but you can forgive yourself if you’re too spent to keep up. “The Double Hour’’ is a decent night at the movies, filmed with swank professionalism, moody lighting, and the proper attention to the curves of a lover’s skin. Its surfaces are so alluring, in fact, that the sketchy moral dilemma underneath may escape your notice. That dilemma can be summarized as “Torn Between Two Lovers’’ and it feels threadbare after all the narrative contortions. You may want to see the movie twice to understand it, but once is all you need to get what’s there.