Lately, I realized to be a bad Italian since I only talk a little about my motherland cinema, so today I want to make up for it by recommending this extraordinary 1994 movie, A Pure Formality.
An incredible story with a rare atmosphere and a few unforgettable characters that begin simply with a man running through the rain at breakneck speed.
Along this dirty and lonely country road, he meets some cops who seeing his condition ask for his papers when he reacts violently, assaulting them and ending up under arrest.
The cops then take him to the nearby police station, which is little more than a half-destroyed house in the middle of nowhere, so severely wrecked that every room floods with water dripping from the ceilings under the heavy rain.
Although under arrest, the man clearly shows no intention of cooperating and refuses to give his name, even attempting to assault the officers again, who restrain and lock him in a cell.
Everything changes when the Commissioner arrives, a cunning and confident little man who begins the lengthy interrogation that will last all night.
Pressed by the relentless barrage of questions, the man finally revealed to be Onoff, one of the world’s most beloved and famous writers.
The Commissioner is initially skeptical but later believes his words when the man begins to recount his sad life, which is very different from the official biography.
Indeed Onoff was an orphan who grew up in abject poverty, later helped by a mysterious individual named Froben, who encouraged him to find his voice as an author.
However, even though The Commissioner is a massive fan of Onoff’s novels, he cannot let him go: just that night, they found a dead body, and the writer is the only suspect wandering the area.
The Highest Level Of Mastery In Every Aspect
Whether it is an Italian movie or not, this is one of the best mysteries I have ever seen in my entire life.
It’s no coincidence that it all starts with a gunshot and a breathtaking first-person subjective run through the middle of the woods in the rain so thick you can hardly see into the night.
An introduction so fulminating that it immediately shocks the viewer, just as later in the police station, every question seems to create further mystery and tension instead of revealing the way to the final secret.
Although best known worldwide for Cinema Paradiso, A Pure Formality is undoubtedly my favorite Giuseppe Tornatore movie, paradoxically almost unknown to the public in 1994.
The Italian director perfects every detail of this gem that is as poetic and elegant in every shot as the set environments where it takes place are dirty, worn and poor.
There is not a single dialogue that does not have a deeper hidden meaning, studying every moment of a perfect story that rises out of time and space into a completely unexplored cinematic dimension.
Also helping Tornatore is the great French writer Pascal Quignard in the script, whose weight we feel in every word, look, and gesture of the magnificent character played by an impressive Gérard Depardieu.
At the other end of the table, conducting this interminable interrogation that sometimes seems almost as nonsensical as Kafka’s The Trial, is another master of cinema Roman Polański, this time as the lead actor.
Every element of this movie exudes cinematic greatness, closing the circle with the tense and elegant score by another legend, Ennio Morricone; so I recommend watching the credits to the end while listening to his wonderful song Ricordare (Remember) sung by Depardieu’s melancholy voice.
The Cinematic Limbo of Tornatore’s Masterpiece
A Pure Formality is a dark fable from 1994, a movie sadly unknown to perhaps too many of the general public that spans Onoff’s darkly woven devious deceptions and lies, writer of a nonlinear and ever-changing portrait.
Even regarding the Commissioner, we immediately harbor doubt. While accusing a murderer, his actions do not seem led by a desire to find the truth: as Onoff suggests, he may be the murderer and is now trying to frame him.
Tornatore’s obsessive attention to detail creates a minimal but haunting approach, encapsulating an unforgettable experience that changes how we will further perceive mystery thrillers.
In this puzzle of life and art, cinema intertwines with theater, and reality collides with metaphysical tenets. The fragmented and disorienting narrative reflects the chaos of the protagonist Onoff’s memory through a story seemingly hanging in time between reality and the imagination in a place that does not exist.
A persistent question permeates the movie’s entire plot, “What did you do last night?“
This haunting interrogative reverberates in the ears of the writer’s mind, which seems helpless or unwilling to remember the answer during the inexorable advance of time and the urgency of truth.
It is no accident that memory plays a central role, as I said earlier, closing the story with the beautiful song “Remember,” which is the key to deciphering this cinematic limbo.
Tornatore guides us through the meanders of this broken man’s memories with his cinematic virtuosity. He challenges every writer’s fear of the blank page, that creative block that keeps you from writing and sometimes even living.
Because for Onoff, writing is living, as he says, is better medicine than alcohol to endure unhappiness and isolation; that life away from everyone because of art you can’t stop thinking about.