DaysAreNumbers – Film of the Day – A Quiet Place in the Country (Elio Petri, 1969)
Franco Nero surely has one of the most breathtakingly varied filmographies in all of cinema…
From his beginnings as a spaghetti western icon in Django to Hollywood fare such as Force 10 from Navarone and Die Hard 2, via working with Fassbinder on Querelle, and even finding time to voice a character in Cars 2 (!) – His is a body of work that yields as many gems as it does surprises. One such gem is A Quiet Place in the Country, which sees Nero share top-billing with his wife, English acting aristocracy and political firebrand, Vanessa Redgrave. It’s also something of a hidden gem, and this one-of-a-kind, avant garde psychological horror film certainly deserves to be more widely seen that it has been of late.
Nero plays an overworked and rapidly unravelling conceptual artist who, feeling hounded by some increasingly intense hallucinations, persuades his snobby, ambitious wife (guess who plays her!) to allow him to buy a rather grand old villa in rural Italy. Once ensconced in his new abode the relief he sought remains far from his grasp, however – as rather than getting on with his work, he instead becomes obsessed with the story of a promiscuous young aristocratic girl who was killed in his new home during a WWII bombing raid. Our unhinged artist seems to somehow be falling in love with the girl, and as he investigates the details of her life and death, he discovers that most of the menfolk in the surrounding village continue to carry a creepy torch for her, too.
A Quiet Place in the Country is a complex, creepy and delightfully unorthodox horror film that could play well to fans of Polanski, Performance, Persona and even the more adventurous giallo fan – having said that, it has a style that is unique to its director. Despite picking up a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for the brilliant, Kafka-esque crime drama Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Elio Petri still seems to be criminally (pun intended) underrated compared to many of his contemporaries. A Quiet Place in the Country bears all the hallmarks of the best of Petri’s edgy, anarchic and thoughtful work, and anyone who enjoys it should also check out the aforementioned Investigation… and almost anything else he’s done (a personal favourite is barmy Sci-Fi satire The 10th Victim, starring a bleached blonde Marcello Mastroianni as a celebrity assassin!).
You can watch the crazy title sequence for A Quiet Place in the Country below… It should give you a good idea of how mental the rest of it is!