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Aggrieved Assault

Dark Love (2010)

Gianni Fiorito/54th BFI London Film Festival

Set in the unforgiving city of Naples, Antonio Capuano's "Dark Love" touches upon the themes of youthful indiscretion, forbidden love and ultimately redemption. It's a stylized, moody, measured film that relays the interweaving tale of a perpetrator and victim and the ties that bind them.

In a visual and aural assault on the senses, the film's opening sequence focuses on a motley bunch of young men as they sun themselves, drink beer and show off on the beach. But their macho posturing goes a step too far when they continue their high jinks into the evening and events take a sinister turn. Mr. Capuano then thrusts us into the world of Ciro (Gabriele Agrio), the only perpetrator of a vicious crime who seemingly shows any amount of remorse for his actions but who is jailed nonetheless, and that of Irene (Irene de Angelis), the innocent and vulnerable victim. This dual perspective is an intriguing device in that it reveals the similar travails they both face and the years of introspection and reflection that one single moment can cause.

In effect, Mr. Capuano takes us on a journey of their education, as Irene attempts to rebuild her life after her shocking ordeal and Ciro seeks out some semblance of direction and redemption. Yet while Irene seems somewhat emancipated, Ciro is seemingly more damaged and alone. Seeking out therapy from any quarter, particularly pottery and poetry, Ciro eventually finds solace in writing to Irene. It's certainly an unconventional development, and more so when Irene ultimately writes back. Mr. Capuano plays up the age old forbidden love angle, yet it's essentially a form of catharsis for them both, providing Ciro with focus and Irene with a means to take back control over her life.

At times wonderfully intimate and contemplative, at others brutal and tense, the film's dual narrative takes the audience on an emotional journey of self affirmation. While Irene sometimes struggles with feelings of alienation and isolation, she eventually vanquishes her demons and moves on. Perversely, Ciro faces the greater challenges, although he too eventually finds closure.

While the claustrophobic and overbearing streets of Naples make for the perfect backdrop to what is a very insular, reflective picture, "Dark Love" is, in Mr. Capuano's own words, "very specific to the Naples region and is more difficult for other audiences to grasp." He does have a point, as at times it's difficult to sympathize with either Ciro even though his actions demand it, or with the ever wistful and distant Irene. Although that said, both Mr. Agrio and Miss de Angelis deliver confident and mature performances.

At the BFI London Film Festival, Mr. Capuano expressed surprise that "Dark Love" received what he perceived to be a muted reception, yet the very nature of his picture demands such a response because it's a thoughtful, considered, intelligent and highly emotive picture.


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