Her doctor tells her that her disorientation is understandable, waking up in hospital, her broken leg in a plaster cast. Her name is Samantha Andretti, though it may not have been used in some time; she was thirteen years old when she vanished on her way to school and has now been found fifteen years later. Did she escape from her captor or was she released, and if so how, or why? Only by piecing together her fragmented memories can profiler Doctor Green and the police hope to save another from the same fate.
A private investigator hired by her parents to find their daughter when she first vanished, they are long dead but Bruno Genko cannot let the case lie, pushing himself on the police when the news announce Samantha has been found and demanding they share information; grudgingly they let him hear the recording of the anonymous call from the man who found her in the forest but that is enough for him to begin to track down a contact who will lead him into the labyrinth in pursuit of a nightmarish white rabbit.
Directed by Donato Carrisi from his own 2017 novel of the same name, Into the Labyrinth (L’uomo del labirinto) weaves the two parallel strands of the investigation together but keeps them separate and distinct as Doctor Green (Midnight Cowboy’s Dustin Hoffman) none too gently interrogates amnesiac Samantha (Catch-22‘s Valentina Bellè), while with Rome in the grip of a heatwave like a judgement from God, Genko (Gomorrah‘s Toni Servillo) disregards his safety as he throws himself into the case, knowing his own days are numbered.
From the cavernous mausoleum of the Missing Persons Bureau referred to as “Limbo” to the underground maze where Samantha and others were held, “children of the dark” released when their captor has found a suitable successor, the images of Into the Labyrinth are filled with saturated earth tones set against the burning hills, lurid hellscapes above and below where progress can only be made by solving the puzzle, in Samantha’s case literally, her ration of food and water dependent on the challenges she was set.
A Eurothriller comparable to The Crimson Rivers or The Ninth Gate, Hoffman’s incongruous presence aside, and how fortunate Samantha also speaks English despite her condition, at times there is an eccentricity which recalls Jean-Pierre Jeunet at his most sinister as Genko is drawn seemingly by a sixth sense to the damaged people left behind, haunted by the rabbit with the glowing red eyes which still dominates their lives through the blasphemous texts it spreads.
Running to over two hours, the trip Into the Labyrinth is easier than the subsequent extraction; some connections are inferred rather than made explicit, leaving some links in the chain of events ambiguous, but beautifully shot by cinematographer Federico Masiero the twists, false leads and dead ends are never anything less than engaging.