Director: Francesco Vona
Writer: Francesco Vona
Stars: Alessandro Grande, Loredana de Luca
Although made for a preposterously small budget (just twenty thousand euros) and, well, nothing much happening for the entire running time, Francesco Vona’s Esperienza is one of the more effective Italian films that I have seen in recent years. Needless to say, it didn’t have much of a domestic release and is only available on Italian DVD without any English subtitles. Don’t let this put you off too much, though, because there are only a couple of lines of dialogue and it is, in essence, a silent movie accompanied by an unnerving, music concrete style soundtrack.
A woman (Loredana de Luca) wakes up in a large, seemingly deserted hotel. All the rooms are locked apart from one, which has no furniture in it, just a crack in the wall through which natural light streams. The front doors will not open and, when she tries to climb up the stairs to the top floor, she never gets any closer no matter how high she goes. Then another ‘guest’ appears, a fat man-child (Alessandro Grande) who does nothing else but sleep or eat his way through their rapidly diminishing supplies.
With its minimal narrative and limited funds, Vona very sensibly decides to concentrate on atmosphere and, despite the fact that most of the film is composed of de Luca simply walking through empty corridors, he manages to make the whole thing surprisingly suspenseful. Taking its cues from The Shining, David Lynch, The Cube and sixties art movies including Last Year at Marienbad, it also scores points for not trying to explain what’s going on or to provide easy explanations: you never find out why the woman is there or what the ‘hotel’ is. Instead this is a visual collage, something designed to get under your skin and itch in your brain; and unlike most films of this type it’s good enough to avoid being boring. Plaudits are also due to de Luca, who delivers a really strong performance. Highly recommended.