REVIEW: Deep in the Wood
– By Dave Dubrow
Stefano Lodovichi’s DEEP IN THE WOOD is a film that forces you to watch it from beginning to end, wringing every last ounce of affect out of you. Visually arresting, it contains carefully crafted imagery that’s hard to clear from memory, like the Krampus festival costumes, the agony on Manuel’s face, and four-year-old Tommi wandering off into the snow-blanketed forest in his little yellow boots. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see these things, because this is a film you very much want to watch.
Movies with twists in the plot are difficult to review, as even the mere mention of a twist adjusts the reader’s expectations. So enough said about that, the better. Yes, there’s Krampus in it, which is kind of dumb, but the film doesn’t go to the silly places Krampus-themed movies live in. The movie, at its heart, is about what happens when a beloved child goes away, and the effect on not just a family, but a community.
The media coverage of Tommi’s disappearance in the film is disturbingly accurate, mingling standard journalistic malpractice with the family’s understandable grief. Tommi’s return five years later, such as it is, raises a number of troubling questions. A major theme of the movie focuses on the medieval story of the changeling: a baby stolen by fairies and replaced with a fairy child. Who is this returned Tommi? What has he become? Manuel, the movie’s protagonist and Tommi’s father, finds himself in a role similar to that played by Gregory Peck in The Omen, having to question his son’s identity.
It’s impossible to fault any of the performances, and strange behavior by the characters is supported by the plot, which is tight. Manuel, the character we see the most of, is relatable because of his flaws. His wife Linda, shattered by the events of the film, brings a combination of vulnerability and repellence to her role. The returned Tommi finds himself a somewhat supporting character; what matters is how his actions, his presence affect everyone else.
You could watch a thriller a day for years and not find one with half the pathos and slow build to satisfying conclusion like Deep in the Wood. It’s Italian, it’s subtitled, so what? Get out there and see a movie that stays with you like this one right here. Then come back and tell us what you think at The Slaughtered Bird.