Film critic-turned-helmer Gianpaolo Tescari makes a powerful debut with “Through the Eyes of Another,” an unusually mature work that comes as a breath of fresh air after a season of especially weak Italo releases. Taking an unflinching look at the prejudices lying below the surface of liberal bourgeois life, Tescari reveals the dark corners of the soul while maintaining an utterly believable, nonjudgmental view of a man confronted with his fear of the Other. Superbly scripted, pic is perfect arthouse material.
Vibrant choreographer Barbara (Lucrezia Lante della Rovere) lives in Trieste with her partner David (Johan Leysen), a divorced Dutch scientist and professor. She convinces him they should temporarily take in Nadir (Hossein Taheri), a Kurd formerly employed by the theater Barbara works with, but now getting out of prison after a minor (but unspecified) infraction. While Nadir looks for a job and housing, the couple welcome him into their home.
Nadir’s shyness, combined with a sense of embarrassment over his dependency, can be misconstrued as arrogance. Everyone is relieved when he finally lands a job at a restaurant, especially David who’s beginning to bridle at the quiet Kurd’s presence in their home.
Late one night when Nadir meets Barbara after work, he’s taunted by drunken louts and a fight ensues, only stopped when Nadir pulls out a knife. Barbara relates the story to David, who begins to conjure a side of Nadir he hasn’t seen.
Tescari inserts these hallucinations so seamlessly that at first it’s unclear whether they’re real or not, but as their frequency increases, they become deeply disturbing. Soon David is imagining Nadir kidnapping his young daughter Sara (Carlotta Ritossa), or brutally having sex with Barbara.
It’s the insidiousness of the suspicions — the way helmer/scripter Tescari has an ostensibly politically correct man fall prey to demons festering in his unconscious — that makes the film so powerful. The characters are brilliantly conceived, and connect to the audience in a way that leaves traces of self-doubt in even the most secure minds. It’s not that Tescari is forgiving the prejudice, but rather saying he understands its unwelcome presence, even in the most liberal minds.
An excellent director of actors, Tescari draws terrific perfs out of both Leysen and Lante della Rovere (the latter picked up the best actress award at Taormina), contrasting the sensual, active choreographer with her more cerebral northern lover. The chemistry between these two very different people is never less than convincing.
Equally remarkable is Tescari’s assured handling of space, and the fluent, smooth camera work surely worked out with d.p. Fernando Ciangola. Osvaldo Bargero’s editing makes the most of tension-filled cross-cuts, culminating in a terrific final segment that switches between David chasing after Nadir and Barbara’s modern dance piece.