Writer and Director: Donato Carrisi
Film rabbits are generally the good guys – Harvey looking out for James Stewart, Roger framed for murder and working with Bob Hoskins to uncover the real bad guys, not to mention the poor innocent bunny that finds itself in Michael Douglas’ cooking pot. But in Donato Carrisi’s new film, based on his own novel, Into the Labyrinth, coming to digital download this week, there is a very bad rabbit indeed – a kidnapping, murderous ‘sadistic consoler’ stealing children from the streets to play a series of terrible games.
When Samantha Andretti is released by her captor after 15 years, she speaks of a terrible labyrinth where she was set an endless series of puzzles and challenges for which she was rewarded with food, water and treats. As private investigator Bruno Genko picks up the trail of her kidnapper, he hears of a mysterious bunny whose shadowy presence stalks the town. Can Genko discover who he is before anyone else gets hurt?
Carrisi’s film has two seemingly distinct narrative strands; the first is the story of Samantha, an exhausted patient in a hospital bed recovering from her ordeal and waiting for the psychotropic drugs to wear off. The clinical nature of Samantha’s therapy sessions is the least convincing part as she tries to recount her various experiences but the lack of obvious trauma and sometimes evident excitement in Valentina Bellè’s performance seems unlikely given the decade and a half that she has been away from human contact. That something is not quite right about these discussions is clear early on and you’ll soon guess where this story is going.
The second part of the film follows Gencko, a noirish detective with months to live and nothing to lose trying to unravel the mystery, and there are quite distinct styles used in this part of the story. Tone is difficult to pin down and Carrisi borrows from lots of different styles including mob films, fantasy, horror, psycho thrillers and film noir to create a richly told but strangely unsatisfactory viewing experience.
At two hours and ten minutes, Into the Labyrinth is overly protracted with the two halves of the narrative not quite tying together and suggests a Director unwilling to cut his own source material. Carrisi does, however, have good control of the unnerving elements of his film and creates a visually engaging experience using a very neutral palette in the hospital scenes alongside rich reds that have an almost velvety feel in some of Gencko’s locations which contrast well with a grime and darkness that pervade Carrisi’s melodrama-laden scene setting.
Toni Servillo is likeable if occasionally a little creepy as Genko whose intimate but largely superfluous friendship with a very young prostitute is unexplained, but he proves a multidimensional lead whose journey through the darker reaches of the town clearly affects him. Bellè does well in the labyrinth scenes, suggesting the feral existence lived in captivity, but is less convincing as a traumatised escapee, while star name Dustin Hoffman as Dottor Green approaches his patient with kindness but hints at more beneath the surface.
It is clear what Into the Labyrinth is trying to achieve and the experience of kidnap victims returned to their families is a strong premise for a psychological thriller. While the duel narrative approach often works well in a novel, on the screen it feels as though Carrisi is trying to make two slightly different movies. Federico Masiero’s cinematography is all you will remember as the opportunity to make a far more insightful film bunny-hops away.
Released on Digital Download on 19 April 2021