MPI // 2007 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Carlton (Retired) // July 9th, 2010
Everyone knew the victim. But nobody is saying a word.
The Girl by the Lake is an Italian film which feels very European. The pace is slow and the acting is well contained; not to the point of boring, just enough to keep the story moving while the characters do their thing.
A beautiful young woman named Anna (Alessia Piovan) is found dead near a lake in an idyllic Italian village where everyone knows everyone. Big city detective Giovanni Sanzio (Toni Servillo) is called in to solve the mystery. After a string of dead ends and little to no cooperation from the townsfolk, clues to what really happened slowly begin unravel.
The Girl by the Lake opens with a scene that one might think will be the film's focus -- A little girl is walking home when a red truck pulls up beside her. After a short discussion we can't hear, the girl gets into the truck before it drives away. My first thought was this would be the last we see of the girl. Soon after, we realize she is safe; this was merely a setup to introduce a character who would become a suspect in the murder of Anna.
The Girl by the Lake plays like a European film, in that it takes time to enjoy the surroundings and rolling landscapes, even amidst the troubles of life. The film also reflects the Italian culture in the way it tells the story, without a large number of plot points or any real twists. This might prove boring to those seeking a fast-paced thriller because it certainly doesn't deliver in that respect. The Girl by the Lake feels like a Krzysztof Kieslowski picture, concentrating more on the cinematography and character exploration than high energy sequences. In fact, I was reminded of Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy right at the start, when the color red was strategically placed in an overabundance of shots. Red was the color of the little girl's jacket and might have been used to convey a bit of suspense, its unconscious relation to blood. Well, that's my guess and it worked for me.
On the surface, The Girl by the Lake is the story of an inspector trying to solve a case, but beneath that is the real story of a man wrestling with his own demons. Giovanni, played wonderfully by Antonio Servillo, is stern and takes his job very seriously, but also uses his job as an excuse to remain somewhat detached from the problems of his home life. His daughter harbors much anger toward him, because he won't divulge the truth to her about his wife and her mother, who is in a hospital suffering from debilitating mental illness. Still, the mystery of Anna is a constant reminder of Giovanni's somewhat broken relationship with his own daughter, neither of which have an easy solution.
I enjoyed The Girl by the Lake for its cinematography and superior acting. However, I might have a tough time sitting through it a second time, as the resolution was on par with the rest of the film's energy (or lack thereof). I wasn't necessarily looking for a twist, but something a slightly more engaging would have left a better impression.
The film is presented is a pleasant 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a suitable Dolby 5.1 Italian surround track. Subtitles are offered in English and Spanish. In the bonus features department, the only thing we get is a trailer; nothing here for those hoping to learn more about the film.
The Girl by the Lake is a solid mystery, but may be frustrating to those who enjoy a steady diet of quicker-paced American thrillers.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical Trailer