Written & Directed by Donato Carissi
It’s all just a game to some people. After fifteen years, Samantha Andretti awakens inside St. Catherine’s hospital, police at the door and a mysterious Dr Green observing her. Andretti’s only memory of her time away has been playing various games with an unidentified kidnapper, lost inside a labyrinth of abuse, terror, and manipulation. Dividing itself the narrative splits between the hunt and the puzzle. A private detective, Bruno Grenko, hunts the kidnapper and killer responsible for the abduction and murder of countless children – all while Green (Dustin Hoffman) attempts to unlock the secrets of the titular labyrinth, the prison the children were kept and groomed.
All the while, a significantly different film is playing out in parallel with Hoffmans, as Toni Servillo plays the weary and terminal private detective; hearing of the peculiar case of Samantha suddenly waking, sets himself up to find her kidnapper as he traverses down the rabbit hole in pursuit of the sadistic killer. And audiences would be forgiven for failing to connect the narratives, or indeed styles of filmmaking throughout Servillo’s sections and Hoffman’s, the cinematography, lighting and soundscape unilaterally opposing one another. Private detective Genko finds himself in the dens of iniquity, crimson lit rooms and morbid farmhouses, all inspired by the panels of a comic book – not unlike the one he finds in connection to ‘Bunny’ the masked killer.
Whereas the sequences between Hoffman and Valentina Bellè begin to become deranged and uncomfortable, not for the harsh subject matters it tackles but for the unhinged and baffling directorial decisions which follow. It becomes derivative in meaningless attempts to throw smoke and mirrors, fending off any understanding which may have permeated. It’s an all too clinical and cold relationship between Hoffman and Bellè stemming from the perplexing characterisation of Samantha to push a contrived ending, attempting to fleece the audience who have already figured out the surprise. And perhaps most baffling, is the shift betwen English language and Italian, confusing character origins with the unnecessarily back-and-forth in what should distinctly been Italian cinema.
Carissi’s significant flaw comes with the unravelling of the enigma at the centre of Samantha’s kidnapper and time within the labyrinth. Steadily, the strands begin to knot in on themselves until the intrigue becomes stilted and uninteresting. Comparatively, Servillo is in an entirely different film of suspense, grounded realism and morose imagery. Though still poisoned with Carissi’s peculiar direction choices, the silent power behind Servillo’s presence commands interest and draws more from those surrounding him.
Without the necessary synergy between the two narratives, Into the Labyrinth hampers itself by tying down tremendous potential by dragging its successful aspects rather than lifting the weaker parts. The crime of never allowing Hoffman to share screen time with Servillo robs the film of the gravitas it was building, instead backing Hoffman into an oblivious part which by the film’s second act already unravels what is intended to be a principal reveal.
Ironically, Into the Labyrinth finds itself isolated within one of its devising, endlessly chasing a lucrative concept which wanders into dead ends and eternal loops. The psychological impacts of trauma and abuse play well into the narrative device of the labyrinth, an inner maze where the darkest horrors hide. Equally, in moments Federico Masiero’s cinematography bursts with creativity in the make-up of audio clues and lighting, but all feels squandered in a fruitless chase and weak tie-in to the world of Wonderland.
Into The Labyrinth will be available from 19th on DVD & and available to pre-order on Digital Download here