DVD Review: The Double Hour (2009)
Editor’s Notes: The Double Hour releases 4/3/2012 on DVD from Newvideo.
A pastiche of fast-cut sequences kicks off our journey into the uncertain world of Giuseppe Capotondi’s The Double Hour. This is a film well versed in cinematic shorthand, and condenses the lives of our two protagonists into succinct packages that give us a cohesive mental image of the world our characters occupy. After it has established a rudimentary overview of the lives and spaces of its two pivotal characters, the film jumps to a speed dating session that succinctly captures their multifaceted personalities as they go through each short dating encounter and react in facial expressions and brief exchanges of words. In just a few short minutes we have a clearly defined mental image of our protagonists, Sonia and Guido, and we accept this perception because we are given no reason to distrust what we see. How we interpret the events that follow our hasty introduction to these characters will be influenced by this initial image we have constructed in our minds, and the film works toward chipping away at that foundation, reveling in cinematic contrivances and uncertain filmic realities. “Contrivances” is not necessarily meant in the pejorative sense, as this is a film about films, and it is quite aware of the connections it is making to the thrillers of yesteryear.
In just a few short minutes we have a clearly defined mental image of our protagonists, Sonia and Guido, and we accept this perception because we are given no reason to distrust what we see.
There is something very real in the chemistry between Kseniya Rappoport’s Sonia and Filippo Timi’s Guido, which makes their hastily formed screen relationship believable. This chemistry is central to the film’s success, as it is necessary to believe in the earnestness of their relationship in order to be affected by revelations of ambiguity later in the film. Guido is the perfect counterbalance to the seemingly emotionally closed off Sonia, and their opposite nature makes them the opposing sides of a digital clock-face in the twenty four daily occurrences of “double hours” (5:05, 23:23, etc.). The dissimilarities of these characters are often in diametric opposition of one another, but despite these differences their palpable chemistry ties them together in a believable cinematic relationship based on uncertainties and noir sensibilities.
As events unfold and the genuineness of the pair’s relationship is called into question, Sonia begins having visions of Guido that are haunting every facet of her existence. These visions are centered around these “double hours”, and as we press forward we are unsure if we are dealing with the mind of an unreliable narrator as Sonia’s mental state deteriorates, if Sonia is the target of a universal conspiracy like we’ve seen in countless genre films that have come before, if she is being driven mad by guilt, or if she is suffering from an increasingly severe psychosis caused by a traumatic head injury. All we know for certain is that the cinematic reality has been compromised and there have been irreconcilable idiosyncrasies in the events that can only tell us that something is wrong, and nothing is as it seems.
…we are unsure if we are dealing with the mind of an unreliable narrator as Sonia’s mental state deteriorates, if Sonia is the target of a universal conspiracy like we’ve seen in countless genre films that have come before, if she is being driven mad by guilt, or if she is suffering from an increasingly severe psychosis caused by a traumatic head injury.
We are never allowed to take the cinematic reality in the world within the film at face value. This is a world colored by cinematic genre tropes ranging from noir to horror, both in visual elements and in audio cues. We can never be certain of the culpability or complacency of any of the characters, nor can we take any image from the film at face value. Such is the case with all of cinema, and the beautiful lies and shortcuts that it has transplanted into our collective observational syntax. All of cinema is pulled into play and shaped into a self-aware pastiche of genre tropes and anticipation. We know the rule book that The Double Hour is playing by, but the film takes these expectations and uses them against us to create a thriller that is refreshingly creative and embraces the most effective elements of thriller history.
This great DVD from Newvideo includes deleted scenes that give us a little more insight into Guido’s motivations and a context for a few hanging threads in the film’s logical construction. The backstage featurette is engaging and shows the lengths that the filmmakers went in painstakingly paying homage to the films that came before and how they used those influences to create something uniquely their own. This enthusiasm impacts the film on every level, and we discover some of the reasons behind decisions in lighting, writing, performances, direction, sound design, and we are given a context for some of the cinematic references contained within the film. The disc also includes the US version of the theatrical trailer.