|2017 is only fourteen days old but I may have just seen the weirdest damn movie I'll see all year. A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY (1968), is an Italian-French horror film directed by Elio Petri, QUIET is a piece of psychological horror unlike the more traditional fare of other Italian horror auteurs like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Hell, it's more like Fellini than anything else.|
Franco Nero stars as Leonardo, a disturbed young modern artist. He's suffering, among other things, a creative block that keeps him from producing his abstract "masterpieces", works that fetch a good price on the art collector market. His lover, Flavia (the lovely Vanessa Redgrave), serves as his business manager, finding him clients and gallery showings. But in addition to his creative block, Leonardo appears to be sexually impotent. He reads European skin magazines but can't seem to make love to Flavia. He's also suffering from several bizarre dreams, nightmares with a high quotient of sex and violence.
Leonardo determines that he needs to move out of the city and set up a studio somewhere in the country. Although a wealthy client has a place all set up for him, Leonardo prefers a deserted, crumbling old mansion that comes with it's very own ghost.
Leonardo becomes haunted by the spirit of Wanda (Gabriella Boccardo), a promiscuous young nymphomaniac who lived in the mansion and met her end during World War II. Leonardo becomes obsessed with the young girl and becomes determined to do away with anyone that stands between him and his ghostly paramour.
But after a brutal killing and several other strange episodes, it turns out that Leonardo, already disturbed, has finally gone around the bend. No one has actually been killed and Leonardo is taken to a maximum security asylum where he resumes his painting. Well, at least that pesky creative block is gone.
From the weirdo opening credits, a visual collage of images of classical art, academy film leader, black and white photos and other ephemera, to the bizarre and abrupt ending, QUIET PLACE is one helluva strange movie. Director Petri and cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller choose off-kilter, truncated framing and compositions instead of more traditional camera set-ups. Add to that the discordant, atonal noise (by Ennio Morricone!) that serves as a soundtrack and the result is an avant garde, bizarre for the sake of bizarre exercise in film making.
It's an extremely off putting approach and during the first act of the film I debated whether or not to turn it off. The screenplay by Petri and Luciano Vincenzoni takes it's sweet time developing and once the story finally starts to gel, it's actually pretty routine. It's as if the filmmakers didn't have any trust in the material on the page and decided to spice it up with outre camera work, editing and "music."
The film reminded me of Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING (1980) in the sense that Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) was already crazy from the get-go, the Overlook Hotel just made him crazier. Here, Leonardo is a bubble off plumb from the opening sequence and he just goes more and more off of the rails throughout the course of the film.
A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY is an oddity. Produced at a time when restraints on cinematic sex and violence were being removed, the film offers plenty of nudity and violence. Vanessa Redgrave is awfully easy on the eyes but that's about the best thing I can say about this film.