Review: ‘Viol@’

While many Italian filmmakers tend to shy away from truly contemporary themes , first-time director Donatella Maiorca at least merits acknowledgment for taking risks with the cybersex odyssey "Viol@." But while the modestly budgeted pic is slickly put together, it lacks the style and wit to sell this tale of a hard-core virtual relationship that spins out of control. Despite the efforts of lead actress Stefania Rocca to bring edge and substance to the drama, it remains about as weighty as your average online sex banter.

While many Italian filmmakers tend to shy away from truly contemporary themes , first-time director Donatella Maiorca at least merits acknowledgment for taking risks with the cybersex odyssey “Viol@.” But while the modestly budgeted pic is slickly put together, it lacks the style and wit to sell this tale of a hard-core virtual relationship that spins out of control. Despite the efforts of lead actress Stefania Rocca to bring edge and substance to the drama, it remains about as weighty as your average online sex banter.

Indie producers Donatella Palermo and Loes Kamsteeg, who scored a minor hit last season with the Mafia musical “Tano da morire,” by another debuting distaff helmer, Roberta Torre, this time look unlikely to earn much critical support. But “Viol@” may score some sales in Euro territories and on video as pseudo-intellectual erotica.

Viola (Rocca) works for a big brother–type research company, conducting interviews and collating data on sleep, insomnia, dreams and secret desires. Shaking off the dust of an unsatisfying relationship, she starts browsing out of curiosity in a sex Website and, before long, is refining her masturbation techniques with a Goethe-quoting partner (voiced by Ennio Fantastichini), who identifies himself as Mittler.

Emboldened by the anonymity of the situation, Viola responds with increasing fervor, exchanging sexual tokens and faceless, naked photographs through a post box. She soon becomes obsessed with her online lover, neglecting her work and playing progressively more audacious sex games under Mittler’s guidance. But their tryst is threatened when he pushes her to seduce Lorenzo (Stefano Rota), a workman doing maintenance on her apartment. When a real relationship develops, Mittler becomes jealous and demanding, invading Viola’s private life and forcing her to track him down.

While scriptwriter Fabrizio Bettelli touches on requisite themes such as the barriers for human contact in a depersonalized society, and attempts to add complexity through the subconscious-desire strand, this is basically just techno-titillation dressed up as something smarter. The final act’s revelation is more amusing than dramatic, while the sex scenes and frequent nudity seem self-conscious and unerotic.

After playing the cyberbabe in Gabriele Salvatores’ “Nirvana,” Rocca appears to be cornering the Italian market in extreme roles. But her raw performance struggles to register in this flimsy context.

Viol@

Italy

Production

A Medusa Film release (in Italy) of an ASP/Dania Film/VIP Media production. (International sales: Filmexport Group, Rome.) Produced by Donatella Palermo, Loes Kamsteeg. Directed by Donatella Maiorca. Screenplay, Fabrizio Bettelli; story, Claudio Antonini.

Crew

Camera (color), Marcello Montarsi; editor, Ugo De Rossi, Patrizio Marone; music, RestArt (Isabella Colliva, Cinzia Donti); production designer, Beatrice Scarpato; costume designer, Annmarie Heinrich; sound (Dolby SR), Glauco Puletti, Mauro Lazzaro; special computer effects, Loreto Papalia; assistant director, Matteo Rolla. Reviewed at Anica screening room, Rome, Aug. 28, 1998. (In Venice Film Festival --- Perspectives.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Viola ..... Stefania Rocca Lorenzo ..... Stefano Rota Voice of Mittler ..... Ennio Fantastichini
With: Rossana Mortara, Rolando Ravello, Maddalena Crippa.
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