Friday, October 28, 2011

31 Days of Horror: L'arcano Incantatore

1996, Pupi Avati (prolific italian director) -- cinema

This italian horror movie was my birthday gift to myself, having learned about the Guillermo del Toro presentation last month during a viewing of Mimic that he hosted.  I know nothing about the director and only know a few cheesy 60s-70s Italian horror movies. But with Guillermo recommending and hosting the night, I was in.  I have to say that I only slightly got what I expected but it was still worth the night, especially being my first visit to the Bell TIFF Lightbox, quite the venue for those that love film.

Pupi Avati is a renowned Italian director studied by critics and film students. I admit, I am not of that ilk as I don't see movies from the construction point of view but from the enjoyment factor. Oh, I am more of a film snob than the average multiplex watcher but I still see movies for their story, acting and cinematography and rarely study anything to do with their screenwriters, directors or their place in the whole art & business.  Also, Avati is not widely released on DVD in North America and his films tend to stick to the small film fest circuit, so I am not surprised I never heard of him. In his horror films he tends to go for a classic or gothic style with lots of religious overtones.

The movie is set in the 18th century and is about a disgraced seminary student who is sent to be a secretary for a similarly disgraced monsignor.  There are immediate overtones at how making an enemy of the church is not a good thing to do but there are still powerful people you can work with, and these people are most likely dedicated to The Dark One.  So the young man travels into the countryside to live in an old tower filled to the brim with books and an ill monsignor whose face no one has seen. The last secretary died of unknown reasons and most people thought him to be also in alignment with evil.

This movie is all about immersing you in that era, when everyone took superstition as fact and religion overshadowed everything, including science.  The sound style of the movie has constant loud nature sounds that spook and unnerve the young man, as well as us.  This is more about wanting us to be wrapped in his fear than the fear we have being 21st century inhabitants.  Most people would find the atmosphere and slow pace of the movie sleep inducing but I was enthralled, especially by the set of the old tower. It was not about creaks and groans as what else would anyone know in that time and it was definitely not about what could be in the dark, a dark that was ever present without much internal lighting.  The real fear comes from the man's real encounters with Evil, religious evil of a supernatural focus.

Guillermo is very very ecstatic about this movie as he is obviously a man of very esoteric tastes.  He loved the onion like layers of this movie with delight in the religious tones, the layers of lies in the story and of course, the gothic elements. His talk following the movie does lend one to enjoying elements not found in the first viewing so I am very glad I made this one of my list for the month.  But I am still astounded that I had not just seen a movie from the 60s or 70s but one made in 1996.