The Transparent Woman (2015) By Domiziano Cristopharo

Director: Domiziano Cristopharo
Screenplay: Andrea Cavaletto
Year: 2015
Starring: Roberta Gemma, Arian Levanael, Giovanna Nocetti

Anna is a fiercely independent blind woman. Her husband Carl sells their apartment and they move into his childhood rural home where, left alone during the days, Anna starts to believe that someone…or something is in the house with her.

THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN is the thirteenth directorial effort from the prolific writer/director/producer Domiziano Cristopharo and also the fourth time he has worked with actress Roberta Gemma (HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS; HYDE’S SECRET NIGHTMARE; BLOODY SIN) and it is perhaps of little surprise for fans of these two that the film practically opens with nudity as our lead couple Carl (Arian Levaneal – BLOODY SIN; DARK WAVES; P.O.E 3) and his partner, the blind Anna (Roberta Gemma) are in the bathroom going through their usual routine, all while their actions are set to an almost sensual, playful seventies style track reminiscent of Nora Orlandi et al. from days long lost, courtesy of the award-winning American/Italian film composer team DiBona & Sangiovanni.

Rather interestingly, particularly considering all involved are not prudish, director Domiziano Cristopharo shows some restraint here and rather than leading us towards something a little more risqué or hardcore he switches things up courtesy of a glorious credit sequence. Of which the style genuinely took me by surprise. So  realistically gloriously retro is the feeling it invokes that it was up there with the rebooted French ‘OSS:117’ films in terms of fun. No doubt aided by another hugely enjoyable track.  

We learn that our happy couple are moving back into the childhood home of Carl, a man whose piercing blue eyes and rugged masculine looks are almost enough to make you brush off the subsequent bizarre nature of a scene in which he begins to start playing an accordion by the fireside only to briefly enter a physical trance that seemingly only we, the viewer, can see. This trance represents the rekindling of old memories as Carl appears to be trapped in a loop but also seems to serve almost as a turning point in the couples relationship – one where it now no longer just the two of them.

On an initial viewing this scene does appear to come out of nowhere on and as a British viewer the use of an accordion seemed somewhat strange (although admittedly not as strange as its appearance in HOLY MOTORS) but does serve a narrative function. I was fortunate enough to have discussed this film with the director after an initial viewing and discovered that this choice of instrument was inline with rural Italian culture and so perhaps, like with many films from a different culture, was a culturally-specific choice that while adding substance and authenticity would not be picked up by wider, international audiences. Or at least not in the way initially intended. 

Whatever the justification, the accordion playing worked and Anna becomes a little more settled into their new home, which is good as she will be spending her days alone in the house. It is in these moments of solitude that Anna starts to suspect there is someone else there. This seemingly standard woman-in-peril set up is coupled with the breadcrumbs dropped by writer and frequent Cristopharo-collaborator Andrea Cavaletto which leads us to speculate on a past emotional trauma that affected Carl and that also may have happened in that house previously. 

As the mystery progresses and unravels, when we move away from the story and begin to focus on the aesthetics it becomes apparent that Domiziano Cristopharo is no amateur when it comes to understanding the importance of light and composition in order both elicit and project mood. For instance as he bathes several shots in blue the end results are beautiful and serve to mark him out as a real talent in an industry that is becoming increasingly Americanised or should that be homogenised and less about individual style. 

The aesthetics, of which I include cinematography, are perhaps more impressive when one considers the films meagre budget but when we consider the directors past perhaps we should not be so surprised.

Again this point is important because this focus on the visuals (and sound) is arguably more important in THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN due to the limited dialogue employed. 

With the exception of our two leads, and even then Anna spends many days alone, there is very little interaction with anyone else but here every interaction counts and rather than be a hindrance it instead helps to generate additional tension and combines will all other elements to produce an engaging film. 

Furthermore this result is made possible thanks to the decent performances of our leads, which although not Oscar worthy are enough to keep you immersed in the world. Roberta Gemma in particular I have to say impressed me considering the role, due to its isolation, could have proven quite tricky even for a more accomplished actress.

Certainly not everything in THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN worked for me, and I doubt it will be very different for you but regardless of this the film is beautifully composed, competently acted and most importantly of all – it is intriguing; as you want to know what has happened previously and you need to know what is going to happen after.

THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN will appeal to fans of the neo-gialli of Cattet & Fozani (AMER; THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS) as well as Onetti (DEEP SLEEP; FRANCESCA) thanks to its peppering of artistic shots, at times reminiscent of the visuals of Bava and Argento, and its less traditional (at least in regards to the non-Italian interpretation of the giallo) take on the genre. 

It is interesting also to note that THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN was actually constructed by several writers with the initial story coming from Francesco Massaccesi, Elio Mancuso and director Domiziano Cristopharo before finally being scripted by Andrea Cavaletto and it is of great credit to this group that at no point does the film ever lose focus or become disjointed. No doubt having Cristopharo bookending the process meant that the concept was kept cohesive from beginning to end.

Ultimately a tale of loss, reliance and the inability to accept the consequences of one’s actions, THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN is well paced, beautifully crafted and a creative mystery drama that I believe everyone should check out.

Finally keep an eye out for the 1970’s singer Giovanna Nocetti who pops up in a very unexpected role. 

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