Directed by Gianni Amelio. Starring Gian Maria Volante, Ennio Fantastichini, Renzo Giovampietro, Renato Carpentieri. (1990)
REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., June 21, 1991
A loyal functionary in the fascist machine, fired for corruption, kills his boss, the man who replaced him and his wife. In Palermo, Sicily in 1938, there is not much doubt he will get the death penalty. The judge, Volante, scrupulously investigates the case to find some mitigating factor, to find some way to save this fairly unpleasant man's life. No one, not the judge's superiors, the townspeople of Palermo, nor the murderer himself, want the judge to continue his questions. Volante does not find out much about the murder but he learns something about himself and the system within which he functions. He discovers that his moral position and his professional position are mutually exclusive. Filmmaker Amelio (A Blow to the Heart) has set himself a difficult task. He has made an investigation movie in which all that is discovered matters little, and he has made a movie about an internal battle in a very reticent man. He is aided in this by Volante's expressive and subtle performance. Amelio uses the stark contrasts of Sicily to underscore the issues -- bright, white hot exteriors in opposition to dark interiors. It is a black and white issue: the death penalty is prescribed by law and the judge abhors it. Amelio is not completely successful. Open Doors is often tedious. Our thwarted expectations, the investigation to nowhere, serve less to turn us inward for a moral debate but instead turn us against the film. It's a disappointment. If ever we needed a film in opposition to the death penalty, it is now, in the U.S. where many of the conditions of Italy in 1938 are being recreated.