Based on a novel by the director himself, Donato Carrisi’s Into the Labyrinth is a twisty thriller that misses the mark.
After mysteriously reappearing 15 years after her abduction, Samantha Andretti (Valentina Bellè) consults with a laid-back psychiatrist named Dr. Green (Dustin Hoffman) to find the person responsible for her kidnapping. Samantha recalls being trapped in a maze-like prison and being forced to solve puzzles to receive basic necessities. Simultaneously, Bruno Genko (Toni Servillo), an aging detective involved in the original investigation, is diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. In his final days, Bruno seeks to solve Samantha’s case to help give his life closure.What transpires is a tonally inconsistent and convoluted film with high production value, but an absence of emotion leading into its, forgive me, labyrinthine conclusion.
In terms of visuals, Into the Labyrinth is dripping with flourishes. Certain sections of the film feel like they’re lifted straight from a graphic novel—with rich lighting, hypnotic editing, and set design that evokes a heightened reality. The atmosphere is particularly engrossing during Samantha’s flashbacks. Her darkly lit, disorienting surroundings provide a claustrophobic backdrop to her predicament. This presentation, however, begs for stronger storytelling and character development.
Indeed, the ingredients are all there for an enthralling yarn, but Into the Labyrinth lacks focus. For example, Bruno has an undeniably compelling setup, but his character doesn’t develop in a satisfying fashion over the course of the film. He’s too often relegated to passively listening to side characters spout exposition, most of whom are one-note and lack personality. Despite a couple of suspenseful scenarios and Servillo’s devoted performance, Bruno’s scenes mostly resort to conventional storytelling in a very unconventional world.
Additionally, when stranger elements come into play later on, Into the Labyrinth takes itself way too seriously. It’s unclear whether or not the film recognizes just how crazy it is veering from unintentionally humorous to nauseating and back again. Topics of trauma, abuse, and mental illness are used for shock value without substantive purpose, wrapped together in a way that remains far-fetched, to say the least.
Samantha and Dr. Green’s scenes are similarly half-baked, although they prove more engaging than Bruno’s overall. Bellè’s performance is raw, but she’s primarily used to recount events during her imprisonment rather than expressing herself as a three-dimensional person. Hoffman’s hammy performance as the world’s worst psychiatrist, initially seems out-of-place in the film’s morose proceedings, yet becomes more intriguing down the road.
The film’s largest problem is that mashing these two plotlines together robs both of the impact they deserve. Into the Labyrinth plays like two separate films packed into one, and supposedly “shocking” revelations land with a muted thud. By the final reveal, I felt irritated—the film’s complicated attempts at subverting expectations only lessened my interest in the whole ordeal.
With striking visuals, solid acting, clunky storytelling, and a disappointing payoff, Into the Labyrinth might entertain viewers looking for pulpy style over substance, but this enigma isn’t quite worth the effort.
Into the Labyrinth releases on DVD and digital download 19 April. In English and Italian.
Words by Alex McPherson
Image: TF1 Studio
Support The Indiependent
We’re trying to raise £200 a month to help cover our operational costs. This includes our ‘Writer of the Month’ awards, where we recognise the amazing work produced by our contributor team. If you’ve enjoyed reading our site, we’d really appreciate it if you could donate to The Indiependent. Whether you can give £1 or £10, you’d be making a huge difference to our small team.