Fighting our inner demons. Whether literally (ala battling killer dwarves in “The Brood”) or metaphorically (“Raging Bull”) the idea of a protagonist having to face their past in order to move on with their lives is not a new concept in the film industry. However given that SO many films have dealt with such a premise it is nice to see one that is as successful as Giovanni Sanseviero*s “The Empty Building”.
Benny (Sanseviero) is drawn to a building in the middle of a snow covered forest. Outside stands a doorman playing three card monte and inside contains a seemingly magical world where the subconscious is brought to life. Upon entering the deserted building, Benny is treated to moments from his past and despite the pain it brings him is forced to confront a horror from his childhood that he has yet to deal with. Feverishly building in his garage, trying to get his parents attention or having to survive mortifying days at school, Benny sees the events that shaped him into the man he is today.
“The Empty Building” has no real plot as Benny drifts around through his thoughts, encountering younger versions of himself acting out the past. The film does however have a great sense of what it is trying to accomplish, showing that while painful, this type of introspection is something we all must do in order to deal with past trauma.
Wearing many hats on this project Sanseviero comes off positively both behind and in front of the camera. His portrayal of Benny is effective because he manages to juggle the insecurities of the character in an entirely believable manner. Benny is at times amused, saddened and embarrassed by what he sees and this gambit of emotions is conveyed nicely.
The film does veer off course at times, at forty minutes it drags on for a little too long and the sporadic use of dancers to convey pain seems more than a little pretentious but overall the impact of the film is positive.
A nice mixture of psychological drama and fantasy “The Empty Building” is an ultimately rewarding film experience that manages to weather some rough patches.