Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the mystery/thriller THE LAPLACE'S DEMON by writer/director Giordano Giulivi. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
"A group of researchers who believe they have cracked the code of chance are summoned to a remote island by their benefactor who puts their lives on the line to test their theory."
The fist thing people will notice about this thriller is that it is a retro styled production. From the classical title screen to the black and white filming, they are going for the feel of the mystery movies of old. While the atmosphere is reminiscent of the classic noir features, the characters still us modern day technology; which further obscures the time period. This proves to be a masterful touch that gives the events a feeling of heightened reality, while also creating a sense of uncertainty right from the very beginning.
To be honest, the start of this film requires a bit of patience as they are slowly laying out the pieces for what is to come. I found the style and atmosphere of this picture to be so arresting that the slower pacing on the storyline did not tarnish my experience. Once they had the plates spinning, they kept the suspense cranked up so high that each turn of the wheel led to some new moment of tension. The fact that each of these scenes was punctuated by a central mystery only strengthened the impact, as we were left to ponder the endgame.
The centerpiece of this feature is a beautiful scale model of the mansion running completely on clockwork. While this might not seem like much, within this model each character is represented by a chess piece that moves in accordance with their actions. Watching the pawns move about or be chased by the unseen force (represented by a queen) provides some moments that are just as heart pounding as they are visually stimulating.
One problem I did have with this picture was that the characterizations felt pretty slim. In a way this is in keeping with the retro films that are being referenced, but it still meant that some of the roles were fleshed out by character traits (the guy with glasses, the woman, etc.) more so than by their personalities. The only upside to the quick characterizations was that there was more time spent on action/tension.
Helping to fuel some of the more gripping scenes was a score that was dynamic no matter what the occasion. While the compositions were not memorable in and of themselves, they felt very similar to those found in the features of yesteryear. Whether it was the calmer, more sedate portions of the high tension moments, the score brought to mind the works of Bernard Herrmann in all the best senses.
All in all, the old world style of this picture kept me enthralled throughout and the model set piece was a wonder to behold. While some of the characterizations were not that strong, the whodunit story combined with the great sense of tension more than made up the difference. Fans of The Twilight Zone (1959) or Ten Little Indians (1965) will love this trip down memory lane.
The Creeping Craig
THE LAPLACE'S DEMON will be having it's world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival July 21 at 7:45pm at the Salle J.A. De Sève with an encore showing on July 24 at 5:20pm at the Salle J.A. De Sève