What’s eerie, refined, and bleak all over? Director Stefano Ludovichi’s The Guest Room (La stanza). This Italian drama stars Camilla Filippi as Stella, who is a grief-stricken hostess going through a rough patch with her husband, Sandro (Edoardo Pesce). Finally having had enough, she’s about to throw herself from a window.
But an unexpected guest, Giulio (Guido Caprino), arrives, stating he booked their guest room. However, in reality, Giulio has come to discuss his grievances with the couple. They are held hostage, forced to face their problems about secret affairs and the philandering ways that plagued them some time ago head-on. Giulio’s presence uncovers a dark secret more jaw-dropping than anything seen on screen in a long time.
There is so much to enjoy from this sharp and thrilling film. Ludovichi’s direction is absolutely superb, with each movement of the camera gathering up enough mystery and darkness to keep the audience on their toes throughout any scene. This film is very different from other blockbuster psychological thrillers, as the director uses a limited cast and a single location to make the most out of the dark and bleak psychological material. The unique blend of horror thrills and grounded storytelling are enough to give an intriguing look into the deep recesses of the psychologically wounded mind.
“…held hostage, forced to face their problems about secret affairs…”
Moreover, the acting is easily some of the best I have ever seen in a foreign language film. The Guest Room has an assortment of fine performances that feel raw and visceral, adding to the tension. The highlight is Guido Caprino as the unexpected guest. His turn as the seemingly good-natured Giulio quickly turns into a frightening transcendental descent into psychopathic madness that never seems forced or overindulged throughout the film.
It is simply amazing to look at a film that has so little in the story and yet, does so much with its material. It is almost like a call back to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece Rear Window. That entire film takes place in Jimmy Stewart’s apartment, and the audience is able to watch a murder unfold from the main character’s point of view. In that same vein, the film never feels dull or boxed in by its use of only one setting. If anything, it is a stronger and more intelligent film because of the decision to have limited locations.
In conclusion, The Guest Room is certainly a rollercoaster of complex emotions that dives into a terribly hurt psyche and, possibly, an oedipal complex that grows more apparent as the plot progresses. It is a fever dream of the macabre that stays with the viewer due to how engrossing it becomes. A litany of fiery performances brimming with fervor and skill adds to the intensity. The beauty and moral of the film that I took away from it, at least, was to maintain the nuclear family and never keep secrets because it’s only a matter of time before things boil over to blow up in your face. Things definitely, blew up, and the results were catastrophic.
"…a fever dream of the macabre..."