How do you know when it's true love (even if such a thing exists?) If you knew everything, and I mean everything, about your partner, would you stay? Would you punish them for their misdeeds? Would you leave? Would you kill? Enrico Clerico Nasino's film True Love
puts such questions on the table in a Saw
-like film that separates and isolates a seemingly happy young couple, lets them see all of each other's dirty secrets, and puts their love and trust to the test.
Kate and Jack are happy and in love; he proposes, she accepts. This happens in the first ten minutes, at which point Jack and Kate each wake to find themselves alone, sealed in concrete cells. Images of one are projected onto the walls of the other's cell; scenes that they do not know occurred, revealing information that may or may not be damning. Each is then asked a question to which they must answer yes or no; the answer may bring a glass of water, or incite physical harm. Each projected scene gets darker, and as Kate and Jack are each subjected to varying tortures or deprivations, they become more desperate and insane.
While the idea of torturing someone in a confined space is not new, Clerico Nasino creates an intensity with emphasis on the coldness of such entrapment. He matches the atmosphere of the space with the state of mind of the characters; that is to say, they more fractured their state of mind, the most he plays with camera angles, focus and even spatial orientation. Screenwriters Fabio Resinaro and Fabio Guaglione's script takes a bit of time to get going, but once it does, it tightens the screws on the minds of the characters, and slowly revealing the truth in a somewhat anticipated and yet tense pace. The film works best when it blends sharp lighting, a twisting camera and somewhat physics-defying movement from the characters. The set design might seem sparse, but works well in the context of the story, and pulls the audience's attention enough to make them squirm in their seats.
What the film lacks, however, is compelling and sympathetic characters. The intention may have been to create a somewhat ordinary (if a little too beautiful) couple, but they end up being rather bland. A combination of lack of depth in their dialogue and less-than-strong actors does little to elicit interest; nor are either of them evil enough to gain interest either. Their superficiality does not give enough weight to their situation, and their reactions in the early scenes means the films stumbles a bit too much before it gets going. In such an extreme situation as this film is presenting, interesting and meaty characters are a must.
Once the film heightens the stakes, it works very well. And a certain amount of build is necessary, otherwise the stakes wouldn't be so high. The films excels in its presentation of the torture, and the questions it presents. Everyone probably thinks they know how they would answer the question, would they stake their life on trusting their partner. The answer, of course, is not so quick in forthcoming.
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