Tornatore and his "unknown woman", between thriller and mystery
by Paolo Menzione
18/10/2006 - Six years after Malèna, Oscar-winning Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore returns to the screen in the Première section of the RomeFilmFest with his new film, The Unknown [trailer] ( La sconosciuta), a visceral story rooted in the news we come across daily on the marginalised existence of immigrants forced to sell their own bodies and sometimes even more.
Is the film, then, a social statement? Anything but, according to the director. "To me, today’s ‘statement’ films almost have no reason to exist,” stressed Tornatore “The idea for the film comes from a newspaper article on a woman from Eastern Europe who was commissioned to have children in order to sell them. To tell this kind of story, I preferred using the mystery approach. So I needed an actress unknown to Italian audiences and a strong ensemble cast around her".
The story of this “unknown” woman folds along the lines of a mystery and thriller, set in a contemporary Italian city (the film was shot in a purposely unrecognisable Trieste). Her name is Irena (Russian actress Ksenia Rappoport), she comes for the Ukraine and lives in the city obsessed by the ghosts of her past and in search of something very precise in the present.
This “something” seems to be, in fact, tied to the job she finds as a cleaning woman in the building across the street from her where she lives. She polishes the building stairs, but her real objective is a family of jewellers who lives inside, the Adachers: mother Valeria (Claudia Gerini), husband Donato (Pierfrancesco Favino) and their young daughter Tea (Clara Dossena).
In order to work with them, she coldly and calculatingly befriends their elderly housekeep Gina (Piera degli Esposti) and ruthlessly takes her job. From there, the “unknown” woman’s plans become progressively more focused on integrating herself within the family, winning over the mother’s trust and the child’s affections. Everything seems to be going as planned, until the most frightening of her ghosts – a Michele Placido in the role of a truly bad character – comes back looking to settle unfinished business.
Set to be released next Friday by Medusa on approximately 300 Italian screens, The Unknown Woman is a an Italian-French co-production between Medusa Film and Manigolda Film, in collaboration with Sky. International sales agent Adriana Chiesa Enterprises has already had positive results from buyers at the Rome festival’s Business Street market, where they are set to close numerous negotiations.
(Translated from Italian)