Directed by: Michele Civetta
Written by: Joseph Schuman, Michele Civetta
Starring: Asia Argento, Franco Nero, Giulia Di Quilio, Jonathan Caouette, Monica Guerritore, Ninetto Davoli, Salerno Claudia
Directed by Michele Civetta
Wife and mother Isidora receives news of her estranged mother’s death and that she’s inherited the family estate in Tuscany. Despite her father’s wishes, Isidora travels to the estate in order to find out more about her late mother through those who were closest to her. However, during her stay, she’s plagued by a spectre who she believes is the soul of her mother warning her but could it actually be a threat?
Asia Argento stars in AGONY, a psychological thriller with mystery at the centre of its beating heart – a mystery that Asia Argento’s Isidora is determined to uncover.
Life isn’t simple for Isidora. The news of a mother’s death would be a shock to anyone, but, in Isidora’s case, she was led to believe her mother had died 30 years ago when she was a child so you can understand the anger and pain the news causes her. Knowing very little about her, except for the fact that she supposedly had postpartum depression from which she never recovered, Isidora’s travel to her mother’s estate is more a quest for answers than a claim to fortune. However, instead of getting answers, more questions raise their head, especially when it seems the staff and friends of her late mother have different accounts as to her personality as to what she’s been led to believe. With husband Michael and daughter Jordan in tow, Isidora needs to stay strong for them but the emotional turmoil of digging up the past gets too much, especially when she starts to see a “lady in red”, who may or may not be her late mother.
AGONY is a slow burner but just about manages to keep the viewer engaged as Isidora begins to explore the life in Tuscany she barely remembers, having left as a child. The stunning Italian setting is a striking contrast to their lives in stale New York city, with Isidora finally looking at peace in her home country. As days go by, it’s plain to see that her time at the eerie estate is changing her, and husband Michael just wants to wrap up the business of selling the estate and go back to their lives. Even the prospect of selling is too much for Isidora to bear. After all, she’s only just been reintroduced to a life she left behind a long time ago, a life that ended based upon a lie told by her father. This turmoil manifests itself in different ways, not to mention that Isidora is plagued by visions.
Visions, or dreams, are a big part of the film, and we see Isidora experiencing them as early on as the film set in New York at the beginning of the movie. Possibly used to echo Asia and her father’s roots in giallo, various bold-coloured filters are used during these sequences to ramp up Isidora’s increasing disillusion and paranoia. It feels like a cheap trick to use and doesn’t really add to the scenes at all, unlike the strong use of colour and lighting in Dario’s movies.
With witchcraft and heretic beliefs touched upon in the movie, AGONY has a bit more going for it than your average psychological thriller to give it the extra dimension it requires, however, being told mainly from the point of view of Isidora, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not. Our sense of reality blurring isn’t that much different from Isidora’s which creates the mystery but also hampers its impact on the viewer. Without a doubt, Asia Argento gives a compelling performance and pretty much carries the film given that most of the running time is spent with her character.
Ultimately, AGONY falls a bit short. It teases an extra layer by trying to jazz up a tale of grief, anger and loss; the supernatural and mystery angle only serves to confuse matters. The attempt to make it more than what it actually is fails to work, however exciting the premise, but it does manage to achieve its ultimate goal of conveying a woman’s traumatic breakdown.