Ragazza del Lago, La (2007)

vt The Girl by the Lake
Italy / 96 minutes / color / Medusa, Indigo, Sky Dir: Andrea Molaioli Pr: Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima Scr: Sandro Petraglia, Ludovica Rampoldi Story: Se Deg ikke Tilbake! (1996; vt Don’t Look Back 2002) by Karin Fossum Cine: Ramiro Civita Cast: Toni Servillo, Denis Fasolo, Nello Mascia, Giulia Michelini, Marco Baliani, Fausto Maria Sciarappa, Franco Ravera, Sara D’Amario, Heidi Caldart, Alessia Piovan, Nicole Perrone, Anna Bonaiuto, Omero Antonutti, Fabrizio Gifuni, Valeria Golino, Enrico Cavallero.

Ragazza del Lago 00 - Anna

In a small town in the mountains, a little girl called Marta (Perrone) accepts a lift from a simpleton called Mario (Ravera), and spends some hours with him, playing with the rabbits that he and his father (Antonutti) keep and exploring the local high-pass lake. Local cop Ispettore Lorenzo Siboldi (Sciarappa) calls in Commissario Sanzio (Servillo) from the Big City to lead the hunt for the missing girl but, even before Sanzio arrives, Marta has been returned home safe and sound by Mario. Disturbingly, she reports that the pair of them found a naked woman lying by the lake .

Ragazza del Lago 01 - Sanzio and Siboldi discover Anna's body

Sanzio (Toni Servillo) and Siboldi (Fausto Maria Sciarappa) discover Anna’s body.

Sanzio and Siboldi investigate, discovering the drowned corpse of 17-year-old Anna Nadal (Piovan), who lived with her widowed father (Baliani)—clearly besotted with her—and her half-sister Silvia (Caldart). Sanzio and the local prosecutor, Giani (D’Amario), soon become convinced that Anna’s layabout boyfriend Roberto (Fasolo) is the most likely culprit, his motive being perhaps Anna’s refusal to have sex with him. An alternative possibility is the coach (Cavallero) of the hockey team she used to captain, a man with a record of sexual assault and who admits having made a pass at her despite her being half his age.

Ragazza del Lago 04 - Silvia lived in the shadow of her half-sister

Silvia Nadal (Heidi Caldart) resented living in the shadow of her half-sister.


Ragazza del Lago 03 - Mario interviewed by Sanzio with intrusive dad behind

As Mario (Franco Ravera) is being interviewed by Sanzio (Toni Servillo), Mario’s rebarbative father (Omero Antonutti)  is ever ready to intrude.

Yet it becomes obvious to Sanzio that matters can’t have been that simple. Until eight months ago, Anna was an outgoing sort, everyone’s darling, and the only person who could cope with the toddler Angelo, hyperactive son of her neighbors, Corrado (Gifuni) and Chiara Canali (Golino); but then she suddenly became gloomy and withdrawn, abandoning the team sport of hockey for the solo sport of running, which she pursued obsessively. Could this have been because she was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor, leaving her just months to live, or could it have been connected with the accidental death at roughly the same time of Angelo, who choked on his breakfast one morning?

Ragazza del Lago 09 - Corrado Canali, for whose child Anna often babysat

Corrado Canali (Fabrizio Gifuni), for whose child Anna often babysat.


Ragazza del Lago 05 - Commissario Sanzio spares no sensibilities

 Commissario Sanzio (Toni Servillo) spares nobody’s feelings.

While solving the mystery Sanzio must also cope with the fact that his wife (Bonaiuto) has been hospitalized with an incurable and degenerative brain ailment: she no longer recognizes him and has quite forgotten that they have a teenaged daughter, Francesca (Michelini); Francesca and Sanzio live together in a relationship strained by the fact that he’s trying to shield her from the harsh truth about her mother’s condition while Francesca is trying to be both an independent, rebellious daughter and a surrogate mother to Sanzio.

Ragazza del Lago 06 - Anna's father believes he knew her well

Anna’s father (Marco Baliani) still believes he knew her well.

Ragazza del Lago 07 - Despite heavy pressure under interrogation, Roberto maintains his innocence

Despite heavy pressure under interrogation, Roberto (Denis Fasolo) maintains his innocence.

I read Fossum’s novel (and wrote about it on GoodReads) immediately before watching the movie, and this may have been a mistake: I found it very difficult to guess how I’d have reacted to the movie had I seen it in isolation. Certainly it has lost a great deal of the richness of plotting and character relationships that make the book so fine; the biggest loss is certainly Anna’s manipulative mother, whose attempts to dominate the others in the family did a great deal to define Anna’s interaction with the rest of her world. An even bigger loss is the backstory of Anna’s boyfriend (Halvor in the novel, Roberto in the movie): far from being a layabout or loafer, Halvor has managed quite heroically to survive a nightmarish childhood, has a steady job, lives with and nurses his cantankerous old grandmother, and is actually the one who solves the case even before Sejer (the novel’s version of Sanzio) does. Turning Halvor, a character whose presence gave a very strong additional dynamic to the original, into the milksop loafer Roberto removed—for me—much of the tale’s interest.

In place of these two characters we have the subplot concerning Francesca and her mother; in the novel the cop has been widowed for eight years and lives with his dog. While both women give very charming performances—and are excellently cast as mother and daughter—the subplot seems a tad unnecessary.

Ragazza del Lago 08 - Francesca seeks reassurance about her mother

Francesca (Giulia Michelini) seeks reassurance about her mother.

The movie was extraordinarily well received in its native land, winning no fewer than ten David di Donatello Awards, including Best Movie, Best Actor (Servillo), Best Director, Best Screenplay and (arguably most deservedly of all) Best Cinematography, and two Italian Golden Globes, for Best First Feature and Best Screenplay, while, at Venice, Molaioli took the Isvema Award for a debut/sophomore feature film and Servillo received the Pasinetti Award as Best Actor.




On Amazon.com: The Girl by the Lake.


5 thoughts on “Ragazza del Lago, La (2007)

  1. “Certainly it has lost a great deal of the richness of plotting and character relationships that make the book so fine; the biggest loss is certainly,”

    Aye John, this is almost always the downside to adaptations, but all things considered I am extremely intrigued. Somehow this Italian di Donitello multiple award winner eluded me in 2007, as it never received a US release. This is one of your reviews that will translate to a viewing, that must is assured. This subject matter appeals to me. Superlative review here!!!!!

    • Thanks for the kind words!

      It’s certainly well worth a watch; I got it easily enough through my library on DVD.

      this is almost always the downside to adaptations

      Yes, but they’d have had to do far less simplification of the novel had they not introduced the completely unnecessary subplot of the cop’s daughter and wife. This may have come from one of Fossum’s other Sejer novels, but it still seems superfluous here. Bah. Humbug. Spit. And those kids should get off my lawn.

  2. I’ve not read the novel but watched the flick. I agree that the boyfriend was a milksop. Maybe the hospitalized wife is something that resonates with an Italian audience? Adding that subplot just sidetracks the story otherwise. With that said, I did not mind that part of the story. It was a chance to learn more about the detective.

    • I didn’t actually mind the hospitalized-wife-and-difficult-daughter subplot either, and would probably have liked it (for all that it seemed derivative of the Wallander family circumstance) had it not been for reading the book and thus knowing that better bits of “business” had had to be left out to make room for this one.

      Normally it doesn’t bother me much to watch movies soon after reading their source novels — simplifications will be necessary, changes to suit the screen rather than the printed page are inevitable, etc., etc. — but here I was really bothered by what seemed completely gratuitous tinkering, such as the butchery of the character of the boyfriend.

      Had I not read the novel, in other words, I’d probably have loved the movie just the way it was. The corollary is that, if you haven’t read the novel, you’ve got a rare treat in store!

  3. Pingback: Den Som Frykter Ulven (2004) | Noirish

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