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OPEN DOORS

Italy, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Gianni Amelio

At the start of the somberly handsome Italian thriller Open Doors, a calm, neatly dressed man returns to the office from which he has recently been dismissed. He is armed with a long sharp knife. With shocking efficiency he quickly murders two former colleagures who were instrumental in bringing about his downfall. Moments later after politely leaving the building, he rapes and kills his wife.

The man, Tommaso Scalia (Ennio Fantastichini), is subsequently arrested and tried for these crimes. During the course of his trial, the sordid circumstances that drove Scalia to such desperate acts are duly revealed. But Open Doors (which is set in Palermo, Silicy in 1937), unlike most courtroom dramas, does not depend upon uncovering the truth behind a mysterious crime to hold its audience's interest. The film's true focus is the judicial process itself.

Its leading character is a dour, stately judge, Vito Di Francesco (Gian Maria Volonte), who is one of several judges charged with determining Scalia's fate. Alone among them, Di Francesco is determined to understand these violent acts from every possible perspective.

The film's chilling title comes from a government official's frightening remark that ample use of the newly instituted capital punishment will make Palermo a place whose citizens will never need to lock their doors.

Open Doors is a film as graceful and solemn as the judge at its centre. Its real value, however, is in its haunting evocation of Palermo's deceptive calm and its contemplation of a man whose nobility and intelligence will prove to be his undoing. Volonte's slow, measured gestures and courtly bearing make Di Francesco an especially imposing figure. His fine, measured performance is expertly restrained.

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