FOOTPRINTS (LUIGI BAZZONI, 1975)
aka Le Orme
Most English speaking audiences are primarily familiar with Luigi Bazzoni from his 1971 Giallo film, The Fifth Cord. While I'm not a huge fan of that film itself (outside of a few particular sequences), I have always thought that it was one of the most beautifully shot gialli films made, featuring beautiful tracking shots and an amazing use of colors. Footprints, which was Luigi Bazzoni's next film, made four years later, once again was lens by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, and is just as beautiful, but luckily, far more interesting.
The film begins with a dream that Alice (Florinda Bolkan, who always has the lead role in Fulci's 1971 gialli Lizard in a Woman's Skin) has, which follows a man being abandoned on the moon only to die out of exasperation. She wakes up and quickly realizes that she has lost two days time-- she thinks it is only Tuesday, but in actuality it's Thursday. Confused about how she could have slept for such a long time, she begins to find clues around her beautifully lavish apartment that would indicate she may not have actually slept through the days. The biggest clue she finds is a postcard with the text "Garma Hotel" on the back. In an attempt to figure out what has happened to her lost time, she travels to Garma and checks into the hotel that appeared on her postcard.
Once there she encounters many characters who seem to recognize her, and as she puts the pieces together she has no idea who to trust. The dream that opens the film is apparently, in Alice's mind, a film she once saw long ago, but she never saw the ending as the film frightened her too much. Haunted by the film and her utter confusion, she strives to come to a realization of what's happening, and what has happened.
Once the character of Alice arrives on the island, she is utterly alone. The hotel she stays in is largely empty except for a few guests, and the epic walls and staircases help to perfectly emphasize her loneliness. It also contributes to the paranoid mood that permeates almost every scene. In fact, the combination of a large hotel and amnesia immediate draws to mind Alain Resnais' brilliant Last Year at Marienbad which this film somewhat resembles.
Both films feature female protagonists whose past is called under examination by a man who claims to have shared a relationship with them, and both deal with the idea of depersonalization and memory, in a very cyclic, enigmatic way. Both end in a climax that leaves the viewer questioning the events that have been depicted on screen, and their validity. The film also recalls Alain Robbe-Grillet's L'Immortelle with the endless wandering of the protagonist, searching for something that is well out of their reach. However, Footprints isn't quite as intellectually accomplished as these films, relying somewhat more on surface level details than any sort of intellectual, or even emotional, core. However, one major difference between the two films and Footprints is the fact that this film was shot in brilliant colors, and compositions that perfectly balance Alice's loneliness with large, structured images, placing Alice even smaller in the frame, helping to create the psychological framework that is obviously present.
What makes the film most successful is it's combination of isolation and beautiful cinematography in the creation of atmosphere. Like I've already mentioned, framing Alice against much larger, empty structures helps to not only emphasize her aloofness, but also create a dreamy mood that makes all of the events, despite how slightly surreal they might seem, work.
Despite many of it's strong points, Footprints still falls prey to a general trope of the psychological thriller; Alice's frustration with her inadequacy and confusion results in more of a sense of irritated-ness rather than true pain. Most of her frustration is taken out on a young girl who is a key element in helping her cull an idea of her missing time. But regardless, the fantastic elements of the film make up for this slight and overall the film is a rewarding experience.