Darkness – From Within

Most of Emanuela Rossi’s Darkness (Buio) takes place within a house with all the doors and windows boarded up. But the title refers to a much more malevolent darkness. It is not the absence of light that makes this picture so dark, but the ever-growing realization that the story is a perverse manipulation of characters. It is part post-apocalyptic, part Gothic horror, part bildungsroman, with a hint of Handmaid’s Tale oppression.

Seventeen year-old Stella and her younger sisters Luce and Aria, live in this darkened house with their father. Each day, their father dons protective clothing so he can go out into the world to try to find food for them. It seems the sun has had a major event and the light is too strong for women. Only men can survive in this overly illuminated world. The father comes home with tales of women who have ventured out and had their skin peal off and lose their eyes.

The girls spend their days playing dress-up or reenacting happier times when their mother was alive. But their father becomes enraged at the memories of the mother, telling them “Don’t think of the past. That world isn’t here anymore.” When they sit down to dinner, he has Stella read from the book of Revelation.

While we may begin by taking this post-apocalyptic world as a suitable setting for the story (as we do in films such as A Quiet Place), it isn’t long that we begin to have doubts about the reality of their father’s description of the world outside. We also have some doubts about the father’s motivations.

Stella has assumed the defacto role of mother to her sisters, As the oldest, she has the most memories of their mother. Aria is too young to remember at all. So, she strives to protect them from their father’s foibles, but he steadily seems to be less and less of the kind of protector they need. Eventually, the darkness of the father’s tale of life outside will be exposed and Stella will discover the truth. But her father is not willing to relinquish his control over his girls.

I found the film’s use of Revelation of interest. The father uses the images of the book to instill fear into his daughters. He pictures the world outside as literally the lake of fire from Revelation. It is also of note that at one point Stella prays, “Lord, You who sees all, don’t look at this family anymore, in fact, if you can, forget about us and send your apocalypse as soon as possible.” For her, the apocalypse would be a deliverance from the darkness that has filled the lives of these three girls. Soon, Stella will know the truth, but is slow to rescue her sisters.

As the story plays out, there is a kind of truth to that. A “lake of fire” becomes a way from Stella and her sisters to finally go into the world freely. There will much for them to learn after spending most of their lives in the darkness.

Darkness can be seen on Film Movement Plus.

Photos courtesy of Film Movement.

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