Acool-toned adult fairy tale about a young man’s obsessive quest to discover his exceedingly strange childhood roots, German director Eckhart Schmidt’s “The Sandman” (based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann story) uses a trio of attractive young leads and dreamlike Italian locations to deliver a stylish entertainment that could grab international art circuit auds. Though a German production with Euro thespers, pic is in English, an important asset for this arty, offbeat fable involving an autoerotic menage a trois.
On a romantic vacation visit to his Italian hometown, Daniel (Lorenzo Flaherty) troubles his lover, Clara (Sabrina Paravicini), by incessantly wandering off and exhibiting such odd behavior as breaking and entering the luxurious estate of mysterious tycoon Coppola (Erik Schumann). Seems Daniel is having flashbacks to his unhappy childhood, which we discover included an industrial accident that killed his father, an event he somehow connects to Coppola.
But the real object of his attention is Coppola’s glacially beautiful daughter Olimpia (Stella Vordemann), a stunner given to wandering the estate clad in a number of costumes worthy of a Victoria’s Secret catalog. As Daniel grows more and more aroused by Olimpia, and increasingly convinced of Coppola’s guilt, Clara’s frustration finally drives her to split for Venice.
Once left to his devices with Olimpia, Daniel discovers that there’s much more to her and his childhood memories than he ever imagined. Turns out that Olimpia isn’t a normal sweetheart in any sense of the word, but is in fact a bionic babe created by Coppola in the factory of Daniel’s nightmares from his youth. Quest becomes both a desire to get under Olimpia’s skin to see what makes her tick, and a fierce battle to kill Coppola.
Tale unfolds like source material for “Blade Runner” and plays with Daniel’s repetitive pursuits in a fashion as detached as Resnais'”Last Year at Marienbad.” Smart handlers will steer this theatrically toward young intelligentsia who could find it a compelling date-night diversion sure to stimulate controversy as well as hormones. Seriousness of purpose and icy airs keep it far from the sleaze category, though, and pic could develop cult following and perform well for vid and cable.