Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Double Hour

by Drew Martin
Yesterday I watched La Doppia Ora (The Double Hour), which is about a Slovenian chambermaid, Sonia, and an Italian ex-cop/security guard, Guido, who meet speed-dating in Turin. Their brief relationship is interrupted by an art heist during which Sonia takes a bullet to the head and goes into a coma. What follows is the surfacing of her double-life.

Double Hour refers to an hour/minute match (i.e. 10:10) when, according to Guido, you are supposed to make a wish. In this film it is used as the moment in which a double-life overlaps. Romantic thrillers are not my cup of tea but the twisted plot got me thinking about the history of the narrative. In a typical story, the reader/audience is teased along until the conclusion. The director holds the reins in plays and theater-movies, but controllable media such as books and online films, give the viewer control and the narrative is more vulnerable.

One of my English professors in college suggested we first read the last chapter of a novel in order to appreciate how the author structures the story. It was common in Greek plays for the audience to know more than the characters; the thrill of suspense was to see the reaction of the actors to their revelations. This is quite the opposite of today's productions, which try to surprise us in the unraveling of multi-layered stories. Shakespeare does both with plays such as Measure for Measure, in which the audience is as clueless as most of the characters for the first part but is let in on the secret for the grand finale.

There are landmark movies such as Memento that raise the bar of plot twists but these are simply extensions of detective stories. What La Doppia Ora reminded me of was not another movie but of the time I was drugged and mugged by a French woman and an Austrian man in Valencia after spending the day with them. They had earned my trust and then revealed their plot to me in the act of the mugging.

Once I was held at knife point on the old 42nd Street while a friend was mugged in front of me. As far a narrative goes, the 42nd Street incident was a simple story line, like slap-stick. The mugging in Spain was something very different; it was a well developed and multi-layered plot. It felt like I was part of psychological thriller, especially when I went to the police to report the incident and they laughed and said, "What do you want us to do, give your money back to you?"

What I began to understand yesterday is that these complicated movie plots are not simply a bag of tricks to hold the viewers' attention but they are actually a cross section of reality which is stratified by individual perspectives that overlap with levels of understanding, misunderstanding, truths and lies. A horror film pushes our flight and fight buttons, but a romantic thriller such as La Doppia Ora affects us at a higher level and challenges the rationale we use to navigate through deception. I just wonder how much of the current interest in the multi-twisted plot is a reaction to an era where information is so accessible and exposed.