Monday, June 18, 2018

ICFF ’18: The Girl in the Fog

Det. Vogel’s weapon of choice is particularly dangerous. He wields the media. A well-timed feeding frenzy will cause many hardened serial killers to reveal themselves. However, there is always the risk they will turn on him. That happened during his last investigation, the co-called “Mutilator Case.” He has come to Avechot in the Italian Alps in search of the missing Anna Lou Kastner, but the restoration of his reputation is his real goal in Donato Carrisi’s The Girl in the Fog (trailer here), adapted from his own novel, which screens up north, as part of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival.

Two months after Kastner’s presumed abduction, Vogel is admitted to the hospital in a near catatonic state. He had a nasty auto accident, but the blood covering his clothes is not his own. Staff head-shrinker Dr. Augusto Flores is roused to interrogate the interrogator, whose investigation unfolds in media res.

Vogel is relatively sensitive while dealing with the Kastner family, but when they are not around, he is openly contemptuous of their Evangelical faith. He also clashes with the provincial police. However, it turns out Anna Lou really is the pious small-town girl she presented herself to be. She is no Laura Palmer, which is good for his media campaign. About halfway through, circumstances will cast suspicion on Prof. Loris Martini, who teaches English at Anna Lou’s high school. It is all highly circumstantial, but that does not trouble Vogel or his media hounds. At this point, whatever you’re assuming—don’t.

Fog is a little slow going at first, but once it has all its pieces in place, it down shifts into an especially dark and cynical psycho thriller. Compared to this film, Gone Girl is practically a love letter to Nancy Grace and the tabloid cable news media. Even though Carrisi’s novel has been translated into English, it is hard to see any mid-sized distributors taking this one on. Think of it as the absolute polar opposite of Spotlight.

Toni Servillo was born to play brainy incisive characters like Vogel. Of course, it is great fun to watch him cutting off fools at the knees. He is rock-solid as Vogel, but the detective is still rather a cold fish.  Hopefully, we can eventually see him play a really flamboyant smarty-pants sleuth in the Sherlock Holmes tradition. Plus, the Italian-fluent Jean Reno is no mere walk-on as Dr. Flores. Their periodic framing banter holds a good deal of significance. As Martini, Alessio Boni will have viewings pulling their hair out in frustration, but that is certainly a sign of effectiveness. Lorenzo Richelmy also makes the most his key third act moments as Det. Borghi, the junior copper assigned to Vogel.

Much like Hereditary, Fog also uses scale models to help set the scene and establish geographical proximities in the small hamlet of Avechot. In this case, it is not quite as creepy (how could it be?), but still definitely heightens the sinister vibe. Cinematographer Federico Masiero does his part to dial up the moodiness too. Basically, this is a quality Euro thriller, much like what mystery fans have come to expect from Scandinavian imports. Highly recommended, The Girl in the Fog screens this Wednesday (6/20) in Toronto and Tuesday (6/19) and Thursday (6/21) in Vancouver, as part of ICFF 2018.