The Well

The Well poster

Sambuci, a village nestled in fogbound trees where the wolves howl at night, accessible only by a long coach ride through the mountains, Lisa Grey considering the demanding and delicate work ahead of her, summoned by Emma, the Duchess Malvese, following a fire which has blackened a valuable painting with soot; with only two weeks until it is to be sold at auction no qualified locals could be found to restore it in time, and despite her youth Lisa comes highly recommended.

The daughter of the best in the business, she sleeps in the room “to get acquainted with the work,” a quirk which is accepted as the Duchess’ own daughter Giulia has her own strange habits, uneasy with strangers and with no friends her own age as she sulks around the halls and battlements: “she doesn’t accept being thirteen,” her mother explains, and the reasons behind the fraught relationship of the two are not the only secrets being kept in the remote Italian village…

The Well; Lisa Grey (Lauren LaVera) consider the delicate restoration job ahead of her.

Directed by Federico Zampaglione from a script co-written with Stefano Masi, the dialogue of The Well reads like badly translated notes rather than a polished script, a series of barely coherent ideas thrown together in a location from which there is no escape in hopes the ideas might have no other choice but to form a coherent whole, Terrifier 2’s Lauren LaVera making the best of the material even as she scrapes away at the damaged canvas with a scalpel, unsurprisingly cutting herself in the process.

The carefully considered approach to the difficult restoration little more than soapy water and a sponge as the Duchess (Diabolik‘s Claudia Gerini) huffs and puffs impatiently, it begs the questions that if that is all that is required why Lisa is required at all, her role in the film more passive observer than participatory, requiring Giulia (Linda Zampaglione, daughter of the director yet a stranger to the concept of acting) to finally take her by the hand and lead her aside to explain the slim plot.

The Well; Lisa (Lauren LaVera) consults with Emma, the Duchess Malvese (Claudia Gerini) on the project.

A film of two halves, in the dungeon Lisa’s friends from the coach ride have been captured, the lush Gothic mystery of the upstairs at odds with the torture porn of down below, the unfortunate prisoners finally thrown into the well to feed the ancient witch Dorka (Melanie Gaydos), a section of the film which serves no purpose other than to show off bloody special effects work and which could have been almost entirely excised with little impact on the narrative, though admiration is deserved for the crossbow bolt which impales someone to a door a metre above where they were standing.

The painting itself revealed to be an eighties thrash metal album cover depicting the original bargain struck between the Malvese family and Gorka in 1493, a pact due to be renewed on the night of the blood moon five hundred years later, it feels as though the film is set in the nineties solely in order for the characters to act as stupidly as the victims of the horror of that era did, the sound behind the clanking of the chains and the whispering wind through the trees that of the bottom of The Well being scraped.

The Glasgow Film Festival concluded on Sunday 10th March

The Well; awoken to claim her due, the witch Dorka (Melanie Gaydos).



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