When the past and the future are forbidden, life in isolation becomes controlled repetition in Italian director Emanuela Rossi’s first feature film Buio (Darkness).
Three sisters live a post-apocalyptic life in a large rambling house. Their father (Valerio Binasco) leaves them daily, returning at 7 pm on the dot with the spoils of his foraging in the treacherous outside world. Women are not allowed to go outside since the sun overpowered the earth with a solar explosion. If they did, they could be affected in the most horrific ways, according to the father. It’s up to men to keep things going in this now ravaged world. Stella (Denise Tantucci), Luce (Gaia Bocci ) and little Aria (Olimpia Tosatto) must trust their father to come back every day. When he doesn’t, Stella takes charge as the eldest and learns about the dangerous world outside their door.
Buio has potential but ultimately fell flat. Split up into chapters, the film itself was too long to carry this story. Once Stella’s adventure unfolds, it’s only a matter of time until the climax, and that took too long to happen. I acknowledge the point of the film, however. Women and girls have to fight to keep safe from the harm of abusive men around them. The storytelling was unique, and the plot itself I could actually see happen since there are countless reports of families and abusers like this. Ultimately, the mid-film lag that grew more evident as the story progressed dampened any impact. Your attention goes to the performances instead. Binasco plays an unpredictable character with menace, and Tantucci’s eyes are so expressive, you can feel the emotional turmoil Stella faces. All three of the girls are believable as siblings, and their devotion and hope really push emotions from the audience.
What I did like was the blending of eras with the sets and wardrobe. The girls dressed like dolls from the 70s and 80s. Each chapter of the film was introduced with a title card illustrated by award-winning artist Nicoletta Ceccoli, giving the film a storybook quality, a fable of patriarchy’s stranglehold on the next generation of young women and girls. The lighting was also well done, giving the home a cave-like, claustrophobic feel.
Ultimately, as a first film, Buio shows that Rossi is competent as a director, and she’s definitely someone to watch.