A whodunit love story of the strangest kind.
Speed dating. This method of locating Mr. or Ms. Right is about as effective as a stint on The Bachelor. Nevertheless, speed dating is where it all begins for Sonia and Guido, who at The Double Hour — 23:23 or 11:23 pm for those of you in Rio Linda — realize they’ve been bitten by the love bug. But nothing is what it seems in this fine Italian import.
Sonia (Ksenia Rappaport), a chambermaid, meets Guido (Filippo Timi, The American), a former cop turned security guard. Sparks fly and the two quickly fall in love. But things take a dark turn when the two are robbed at gunpoint and Guido is killed. Things then go from dark to strange, when a grief stricken Sonia begins to see the deceased Guido walking around looking very much alive, just as secrets of her own dark past begin to surface.
With The Double Hour, first time director Giuseppe Capotondi creates an atmosphere consistently shrouded in doubt and mystery from which he never departs. The viewer is always off balance, as the layers of this romantic whodunit are peeled away. Rappaport and Timi have a fantastic chemistry that comes through, even though both are hesitant to move forward in their relationship. Guido, who can be gruff and rude, has some heartache in his past, and Sonia has secrets that could make her a less than ideal mate. Their slow moving romance works well with the careful pacing of the film and this unhurried tempo only serves to heighten the mystery and sharpen the focus on these characters and their plight. Capotondi makes us care about this relationship, while at the same time gearing us up for the proverbial shoe drop.
And oh does it drop, on one romantic afternoon at a lavish villa where Guido works as a security guard. While out for a quiet walk on the grounds, Guido and Sonia are suddenly overtaken by masked gunmen, who wants the valuables inside the estate. In a scuffle for Sonia’s honor, Guido is shot and killed by one of the burglars. Or is he? Not long after the incident, Sonia begins to see her dead lover outside her home and at work (now that’s love). Adding to her distress, Guido’s good friend Dante, an Italian cop, doesn’t believe Sonia’s story of how things went down.
Ksenia Rappaport, a native of Russia, is wonderful as the mysterious Sonia. We know she’s hiding something, and the movie slowly reveals the true nature of a woman rejected by her father and looking for love in all the wrong places. The subtleness with which she plays Sonia generates empathy for the character, while simultaneously causing us to question her role in everything. Filippo Timi, as Guido, is full of this restrained energy that wants to burst forth at any moment; the only time we see him lose it, the rage is explosive. Guido is more of an enigma than Sonia; we know a bit about his sorrow, but are never privy to what makes him tick. He is a gentle man who has taken on a tough persona as a way to protect himself from the hurt that life has dished out.
The Double Hour keeps us guessing at every turn. Just when we think we know what’s going on, Capontondi and his writers spring an unexpected surprise. For instance, halfway into the story, the final twist is revealed. In Hollywood, this is usually reserved for the very end to keep the viewer engaged. But the makers of The Double Hour kill that convention by creating a story engaging enough to hold our attention even after showing their hand. Very few films can pull this off.
Presented in standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer is crisp and clear. Considering the dark colors of their wardrobe, there is still a beautiful quality to the film that shines throughout. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix allows us to take in the film’s beautiful Italian language track, with well-placed subtitles. If you’re not a fan of reading while watching a movie, suck it up. The Double Hour is worth it. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews from Rappaport, Timi, director Capotondi, and some of the crew. There are also a handful of deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer.
The Double Hour is an ambitious project that seamlessly moves between reality and something that resembles reality. The tragic love story borders on Shakespearean, its two star crossed lovers seemingly doomed from the very start. Capotondi allows the story to unfold naturally, never overplaying its intrigue. This way, the viewer does not tire of the plot twists. The IMDb rumor mill claims there’s an American remake in the works. My only hope is that Hollywood avoids the temptation of giving it the fairytale ending they believe is needed for box office success.
Not Guilty. Capish?!
The Double Hour (DVD)
2012, New Video, 96minutes, NR (2009)
VIDEO: 2.35:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Italian), Dobly Digital 2.0 (Italian) SUBTITLES: English (SDH)
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Trailer ACCOMPLICES: IMDB