Saturday, November 14, 2009

In short: La Radice Del Male (2006)

aka The Roots of Evil

The painter Andrea Spiegelman (Zora Kerova) has lost her memory and half of her face in some mysterious accident.

It is already a year after the accident, but she still hasn't recovered. At least she is finally allowed to leave the clinic where she spent the last year of her life. Her doctor (Lionello Gennero) and husband Valerio (Giancarlo Previati) think it best for her to recover in a country house she inherited from her uncle (Peter Sheperd) who killed himself some time before Andrea's accident.

The painter isn't a happy woman there - her husband isn't exactly the nicest man she could have married (when he is home at all), she has lost all drive to paint and her doctor doesn't want to prescribe her any more morphium.

It seems like a stroke of luck when she finds some notes and tape recordings her uncle left her. In them, the hobby botanist describes his experiments with the psychotropic drugs he produced from the plants he grew in his greenhouse - up to the point when he took his experiments too far and committed suicide, of course.

Andrea, with really nothing better to do and in dire need of chemical improvement, starts to repeat her uncle's experiments. At first, it's all fun and games and pretty pretty colours, but soon Andrea has difficulty telling hallucination from reality. It seems as if rather strange things are happening in the house, as if the servants and her husband have secrets from her, but who can say what of the things Andrea sees is the truth and what an hallucination?

Things reach a violent climax when the disturbed woman tries a plant extract which is supposed to help one regain lost memories.

La Radice Del Male is a very low-key Italian low budget thriller that doesn't contain an ounce of originality.

Nonetheless, I found myself nodding in agreement while watching it. Sure, the plot twists should surprise nobody, and director Silvana Zancolo isn't exactly inspired, but she(?) does a straightforward enough job with the film, just telling her story without trying to impress overtly. I think that sometimes there's something to be said for the work of diligent craftspeople like Zancolo. Watched in the right mood, a simple story told in a simple way like this one can be thoroughly satisfying.

Zora Kerova, whom you might know from a handful of the more extreme Italian genre movies of the 70s and 80s like Cannibal Ferox and Anthropophagus does a fine job in the role of the disturbed heroine. It is refreshing to see an actress who has aged in the graceful way of people who haven't given in to the nightmare of unmovable facial muscles we know as botox and is therefore still able to use her face to emote.

It's also just nice to see a thriller whose main characters are in their Fifties instead of teenagers, living a grown-up life not too often seen on screen.

Still - as I said - this film won't land on anyone's list of timeless classics. It's just a nice, solid little movie deserving of some respect.


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