Irena (Xenia Rappoport) is a mysterious woman with a secret who works her way into the lives of an affluent young family. She stops at nothing to become the couple's trusted maid and beloved nanny to their fragile young da... more »ughter. But deep cracks underneath Irena's dedication soon become apparent as her horrific past and chilling obsession are revealed in this dark, sensual thriller.
Stills from The Unknown Woman (Click for larger image)« less
"From a director who has made some wonderful films, from one of the best composers there ever has been, and from an actress that gave a performance of a lifetime comes this incredible piece of work that I cannot recommend enough.
As far as acting, risks and film style - this should have won that year but at least it got submitted for the Academy (wrongly overlooked - probably due to content). A suspenseful tale that follows the lead woman through flashbacks and present time, with an editing style that makes the film a stand-out in storytelling. Xenia Rappaport convinced me beyond any doubt of her skill level, and even when you watch the supplemental documentary, she exudes a certain professionalism that warrants attention. A strong R rating of a film about retribution, loss, prostitution in the worst way, and an ending I did not see coming (considering all that had happened).
The DVD quality is excellent, the sound mixed perfectly for what was being asked, and the supplemental feature contains just the right amount of background material and non-cheesy interviews. Hope this does not get overlooked again."
Giuseppe Tornatore is a genius, this movie is a gem
Alexyos | USA | 07/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Giuseppe Tornatore is a genius, this movie is a gem. Buy it and keep it in your collection. Superb acting, incredible story of human love and desperation. I cannot believe this movie did not win any Oscars."
Difficult, dark film. Xenia Rappoport is amazing.
Phillip Royer | San Francisco | 09/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A little hard to follow and a little hard to swallow, this film by the director of Nuovo Cinema Paradiso is gritty and loose. A dark controlled chaos in skilled hands, it feels like an army of films rushing at you all at once. It's a bit overwhelming until the grabs you, sucks you in and won't let you go performance of Xenia Rappoport kicks in. She's a magnet in the middle of a mysterious mayhem. It's too bad that the style and substance of the film will prevent it from ever becoming popular because her portrayal of suffering and sheer determination is one for the history books. The woman's got chops. She moves like an insect through the undergrowth of her seedy milieu with an androgynous, unkempt beauty that's both tempting and invisible. She's able to shift her portrayal from one emotion to another, and then another, without moving a muscle in her face--a skill few actors possess. It's her story and we follow her through it not knowing exactly what she's after or what she will do with it when she seems to have it in her grasp. That's the unknown part and Rappoport plays the mystery for all it's worth. She works the complex narrative inside her head and lets the revelations drip out slowly, uncontrollably.
Director Giuseppe Tornatore says this film is about a woman reclaiming her power as a woman (there's a great big serving of motherhood with that) after it has been stripped from her from every angle imaginable. Rappoport's character is the victim of a human slave trade that uses immigrant Eastern European women to make babies for the upper-class. She's gotten out of it, but with a lot of baggage. Some of it is misplaced and some of it is hurled at us in short, chaotic flashbacks in the beginning of the film (that's the hard to follow part), slowly unfolding to more understandable scenes as they catch up with her present life at the end of the film--a nice structural technique by the director.
Roger Ebert wrote a review of this movie which essentially lists the aspects of it he thinks he understands and the aspects he thinks he doesn't. He scores a little above average, I think, which is about as good as anyone is probably going to do. There's a noir-ish component (not a stylistic one) to the film where major events and character traits are unleashed which are way beyond the reality of any mere mortal's life. There are also plenty of cause-for-pause moments when you will consider if the means justify the end. That's the hard to swallow part but I'm not complaining. It is a movie after all, and if you've read many of my reviews you know that I take all comers when it comes to plot gymnastics as long as they don't infringe upon the integrity of my players, as long as they don't cause incredulity to appear on the faces of the actors because they don't believe the script. Giuseppe Tornatore is lucky, or smart, to have enlisted an actress with the strength of Xenia Rappoport. ET coulda popped in here and I don't think she would have missed a beat.
Speaking of beats, Ennio Morricone scored this film spectacularly."
Coming to region 1
Matrix | California | 03/18/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It will be released in region 1 on 7/21/09 through Image Entertainment, from a high def transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16X9 TV's, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Director Commentary, behind the scenes featurette, trailer and TV spots. Hope you enjoy it again."
Excellent film from Tornatore
Maía | 11/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not hard to follow at all, everything fits perfectly, every scene, every flashback, Tornatore is a great director and the music of Ennio Morricone keeps us on the edge of our seats on every scene as the story unveils. It's a very good movie, I highly recommend it. The actres that portrays Irena is excellent, very powerful and the little girl it's adorable. It's been a long time sice I've seen a well done film like this one."