Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza (director)
03 August 2018 (released)
01 August 2018
It all starts innocently enough with Luna (Julia Jedlikowska) tracking Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez) after school. She’s taken a fancy to him and he knows it. Toying and bantering with her over a letter she has written, she marches off with the hump to be confronted by a large black that is no mood to play. Giuseppe catches up with her shouts at the dog who then chases them. They escape only by Giuseppe throwing away his rucksack to leapt on and savaged by the dog.
They go to the stables where Giuseppe demonstrates his horsemanship to Luna who gives him the letter, and they kiss. It’s the stuff of fairytales as it’s something of a forbidden love as Luna’s mother wants her daughter to have nothing to do with him. His father is a member of the local mafia, who’s currently talking to the police and in hiding. Any association is likely to be dangerous. So it proves as Giuseppe is tricked and kidnapped by the mafia, who have threatened to kill him if his father continues to talk.
Naturally with a burgeoning relationship Luna notices that Giuseppe has gone missing. Getting nothing from the school or his family she and her friend Loredana (Corinne Musallari) set about their investigations printing leaflets and dying their hair blue!
Giuseppe meanwhile is captive in squalid conditions, and moved around the island, with only Luna’s letter as comfort. Through the letter they cling to each other through dream and other dimensions as each has a need for the other: Luna to manage a dissolving family and social situation, and Giuseppe to survive as he mentally and physically withers. The conclusion of the film is bleakly, bitter and sweet.
The fact is fairytales don’t always end well, and the ending is as happy as it is going to be. The film is based on the true story of the kidnap of 12-year old Giuseppe Di Matteo in 1993. He was held for 779 days before being killed, his body then dissolved in acid. It's this towards the end, after the killers have disposed of the remains into the lake, that lingers in the mind as what is left of the flesh, in a long, haunting sequence, dissipates through the blue water, eventually drifting into blackness.
On a technical level this is a film that conveys the beauty of the island, one that can also hold such horrors. This dichotomy is sharpened by writer/directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza with an air of magic and symbols. The ferocious dog, the owl in Luna’s home, her drawings and the spectral apparitions of characters during the film.
The acting from the two leads is heartrending as Giuseppe struggles to maintain some dignity in front of his captors and Luna never giving up on him, as others do, and as we see their torment through to the end.
It’s maybe a touch overlong and requires some patience. But the success is that the filmmakers have skilfully used the supernatural and a love story to tell a very unpleasant episode in such a way that doesn’t dilute the true horror.