×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Locarno Film Review: ‘The Human Factor’

This spare and chilly Italian thriller is likely too downbeat to make much of a splash at home.

With:

Silvio Orlando, Giuseppe Battiston, Alice Raffaelli, Sandra Ceccarelli, Renato Sarti, Arianna Scommegna, Giorgia Senesi, Dafne Masin, Mao Wen, Davide Tinelli, Caterina Luciani, Luca Cerri, Silvano Piccardi, Paolo Grossi, Gabriele Dino Albanese, Francesco Palamini, Roberta Paparella.

A high-profile murder turns personal when a police inspector discovers his teen daughter may have been at the crime scene in Bruno Oliviero’s respectable neo-noir debut, “The Human Factor.” Immersed in the coldly perverse nighttime underbelly of Milan, this spare and chilly thriller gets residual heat only from suppressed emotions and the understated presence of newcomer Alice Raffaelli in an impressive turn as the neglected young woman yearning for paternal affection. Too downbeat to make much of a splash at home, “Factor” will likely find larger auds via streaming sites and smallscreen airings.

The helmer’s docu background, particularly his examinations of Milan, informs his stark, observational take on Italy’s city of commerce, using a distanced approach to critique a metropolis where connections offer a surface slickness that repels intimacy. Perversion and depression are the city’s twin spirits, the former a joyless bid for excitement, and the latter the desiccated leftovers where personal attachments once existed. Embodying that depression is inspector Adriano Monaco (Silvio Orlando, sporting saucer-sized eye bags). A widower for the last three years, he’s all but given up onsite investigations, preferring the solitude of deskwork over human interactions.

He and partner Carlo Levi (Giuseppe Battiston) are assigned to the sensational murder of high-roller Mirko Ullrich (Francesco Palamini), whose cocaine-dusted, blood-smeared home implies a vigorous struggle. Ullrich’s wife (Sandra Ceccarelli, appropriately brittle) claims to have been out at a party and then sleeping with a guy whose name she can’t recall; clearly there was no love lost between this couple. Then Monaco sees his daughter Linda (Raffaelli) brought into the station after being found pointing a gun outdoors.

Linda is dazed, possibly drugged; Levi offers the comfort and warmth that Monaco, trapped in his perpetual grieving-widower stage, can’t provide. She’s booked and allowed to return home with her father, but she’s not offering any answers, and Monaco doesn’t know how to even ask the questions. An investigation of Ullrich’s murder reveals the guy liked teenage girls and nightlife; when Monaco finds a scrap of paper that possibly puts Linda in Ullrich’s apartment the night of the murder, the full force of his self-imposed isolation hits home.

The plot, as well as some dialogue, could have been lifted from countless investigative skeins, full of sordid details that provide viewers with the kind of prurient pleasure that keeps them from switching channels. Oliviero’s vision is a bit more sophisticated than that, yet while he’s good on mood, he’s less forthcoming with answers. Monaco is so trapped in his perpetual grief that the walls he’s built around himself block out not just his daughter, but audiences as well. Fortunately, Linda’s character has more visible complexity, and Raffaelli brings out the full contradictory nature of this deeply needy teen, who plays the mean girl at school as a way of compensating for the lack of attention at home. Meanwhile, the crime itself feels completely incidental, and Ceccarelli is given too little to do.

Though Renaud Personnaz’s camera spends ample time registering the late-night streets of Milan, it rarely feels involved in what it’s shooting, offering cursory intros rather than in-depth explorations. The effect is meant to be haunting, yet a bit more lingering on character would have enhanced the kind of shading generally lacking in the script.

Locarno Film Review: 'The Human Factor'

Reviewed at Cinema Quattro Fontane, Rome, July 24, 2013. (In Locarno Film Festival — Piazza Grande.) Running time: 82 MIN. Original title: "La variabile umana"

Production:

(Italy) A BiM Distribuzione release of a Lumiere & Co., Invisible Film, Rai Cinema production, in association with Intramovies, in collaboration with Movie People, Milano Scuola di Cinema e Televisione, Milano Teatro Scuola Paolo Grassi, Lombardy Film Commission. (International sales: Intramovies, Rome.) Produced by Lionello Cerri, Gabriella Manfre.

Crew:

Directed by Bruno Oliviero. Screenplay, Valentina Cicogna, Doriana Leondeff, Oliviero. Camera (color, widescreen), Renaud Personnaz; editor, Carlotta Cristiani; music, Michael Stevens; production designers, Silvia Nebiolo, Luigi Maresca; costume designer, Nebiolo; sound (Dolby Digital), Matteo Olivari; assistant director, Alessandro Stellari; casting, Cristina Proserpio.

With:

Silvio Orlando, Giuseppe Battiston, Alice Raffaelli, Sandra Ceccarelli, Renato Sarti, Arianna Scommegna, Giorgia Senesi, Dafne Masin, Mao Wen, Davide Tinelli, Caterina Luciani, Luca Cerri, Silvano Piccardi, Paolo Grossi, Gabriele Dino Albanese, Francesco Palamini, Roberta Paparella.

More Film

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

  • Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts

    Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts Without Censorship Approval

    Chinese crime drama “Summer of Changsha” screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section despite lacking the necessary approvals from China’s censors. It premiered without its director or creative team in attendance, who blamed “technical reasons” for their absence — marking the third time that Chinese censorship appears to have caused [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

  • John Wick Chapter 3

    'John Wick: Chapter 3' Tones Down the Blood and Gore to Keep Look 'Totally Real'

    When Jeff Campbell, a visual effects supervisor with VFX studio Spin, initially set to work on the first “John Wick,” the 2014 action thriller from director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad, he started with an industry-standard test: Establish a single, simple kill effect meant to get a sense of the look of the violence [...]

  • Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cinéfondation

    Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cannes Cinefondation Selection Top Prize

    CANNES–“Mano a Mano,” by Louise Courvoisier of France’s CinéFabrique, won the first prize Thursday at the 22nd Cinéfondation Selection,the Cannes Film Festival’s top film school shorts awards. The prize was awarded by a jury headed by French director Claire Denis (“Beau Travail”). The jury also included French actress Stacy Martin (“Godard mon amour”); Israeli writer-director Eran [...]

  • The Traitor

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Traitor'

    What surprises most about Marco Bellocchio’s Mafia drama “The Traitor” is just how straightforward it is. Given its subject — Tommaso Buscetta, the highest-ranking Mafia don to sing to the authorities — there were expectations that the director would deliver a theatrical drama along the lines of “Vincere,” but notwithstanding a few operatic flourishes, his [...]

  • Perfect Strangers

    Zhao Tao, Rajkumar Hirani Join Shanghai Festival Jury

    Italian director Paolo Genovese and Chinese actress Zhao Tao are among members of the jury for the upcoming Shanghai International Film Festival. They join the previously announced jury president, 2014 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish director behind last year’s “The Wild Pear Tree.” Genovese’s 2016 film “Perfect Strangers” made $7.7 million [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content