Greta, the review of the film with Isabelle Huppert aired tonight on Sky

Presented in 2018 at the Toronto International Film Festival, it arrives directly on our screens Gretathe latest feature by Irish director Neil Jordan, which became famous thanks to a handful of films shot in the 90s as Interview with the vampire, Michael Collins and especially The soldier’s wife, for which it also won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. A film in which the Irish director once again investigates the darkness in the soul, to name another of his best-known titles. The journey into the darkest recesses of a dangerous mind. A psychopathological thriller, steeped in horror.

Frances Mc Cullen is from Boston but lives in New York with a college colleague. She plays Chloë Grace Moretz, the young actress born in Atlanta who, from her debut film, Amityville Horrorto the recent Suspiria of our Guadagnino, has a filmography entirely inscribed within the horror cinema.

Greta is a sophisticated transalpine lady, alone. She was abandoned by her daughter, who now lives in Paris, and she lost her husband, who played the organ in church every Friday. Even the dog died. The mature lady kills time by playing Liebestraum: a dream of love by Franz Liszt at the piano, the only apparent comfort in a life dominated by an unbearable loneliness. She plays Isabelle Huppert, a superlative French actress who has often and willingly worked with one of the most refined authors of the “nouvelle vague”, Claude Chabrol, and who for some years has specialized in the roles of fascinating cold women, subtly disturbing and vaguely deviant. Two titles above all: The pianist by Michael Haneke e Elle by Paul Verhoeven.

Here she is very good at restoring all the chiaroscuro of a complex and disturbed, ominously multifaceted character: she is both fragile and violent, affable and shady, decorous and brazen. Coldly imperturbable. A bourgeois woman who, behind the patina of polite respectability, hides a black, dangerous soul; in which she, thanks to the class of the Parisian champion, her staid beauty of her turns in a flash into a disquieting ghostly presence.

The plot of the film is triggered by the discovery of a handbag in the subway: having identified the rightful owner, Greta, Frances hurries to return it to her. A mutual sympathy immediately arises between the two women, from the moment they discover that they share a bereavement: even Frances’s mother has recently died, which makes her fragile and vulnerable, in short, a perfect victim.

The young provincial soon realizes, in fact, that she is the object of the ambiguous attentions of the older lady, who begins to court her in an ambiguous way, like an authentic stalker; a morbid approach that at first would suggest an attempt at Sapphic seduction.

To signal the first jarring clue is the first turning point, when, by chance opening a wardrobe, Frances discovers that her new friend has an enormous quantity of identical purses, identical to the one she had found on the subway. Like the shoes of the neurotic protagonist of White by Nanni Moretti. And so the film begins to be tinged with yellow: a descent into hell in a psycho-thriller psychological violence, which makes you think of certain Hitchcock films as Rebecca – The first wife or The suspect.

She represents herself as a lonely and desperate woman, Greta: to fulfill the parable of seduction of her prey, she does not hesitate to use the weapon of moral blackmail. An obsessive, physical and virtual tamponade, to be frightening; in which the executioner disguises himself as a victim, the wolf disguises himself as a little red riding hood. So the stalking becomes sinister and disturbing, the detection is toxic. She chases her everywhere: she stays for hours staring at her in front of her workplace, she gets on her own subway, lurks on the landing of her house. The tension between the two women rises to the point of becoming unbearable, and the director, Neil Jordan, is very good at using all the nuances of noir to describe that progressive, almost imperceptible, transition from the need for love to the offer of hate. He does it, mainly, using the face of the French actress as if it were a painter’s palette, exploiting the crazy glint of her eyes, the facial micro-mimicry articulated in tiny grimaces. But also the puppet dance from ballet mécanique of the pre-final.

The rest is entrusted to a skilful use of the soundtrack, composed by the Spaniard Javier Navarrete who in 2007 obtained an Oscar nomination for fantasy-horror music. The labyrinth of the faun by Guillermo del Toro.

As the plot of the mystery unfolds, it will be discovered that nothing is what it seems. The described reality will become more and more elusive, between dreamlike delusions, telematic mystifications and dramaturgical matryoshkas. As a psycho-thriller it commands.

Post Scriptum. Trivia for cinephiles: Northern Irish actor Stephen Rea returns here in a small but decisive role The soldier’s wife he played the IRA militant Fergus (he who in his life was truly a leader of the movement

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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