Review: NAPLES IN VEILS Is A Steamy Romance Without Narrative Steam

naples in veils water
Luisa Ranieri as “Catena” in “Naples in Veils” by Ferzan Ozpetek.

Naples in Veils is a new Italian neo-noir film co-written and directed by Ferzan Ozpetek. The movie follows Adriana, a medical examiner who sets out to investigate the mysterious death of a handsome young man with whom she had a one-night stand the night before. It was released in Italy in 2017 and is finally making its way to U.S. audiences.

The story of the film, while relatively interesting as a mystery, isn’t unlike plenty of movies that have come before. Simply put, the film is generic and predictable. The movie attempts to have twists, but these twists are obvious because they are often rooted in common tropes of the noir genre. For example, there is a doppelgänger character that the film plays off as “unexpected” despite the fact that this is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Had the filmmakers been trying to create a retro homage to noir, this wouldn’t have been as distracting, but because of the self-serious nature of the movie, it doesn’t work particularly well.

Another big issue with the film is the lackluster character development. The movie doesn’t do enough to connect the audience with the murder victim, so it is hard to find adequate sympathy in that regard. Since the relationship between the protagonist and the victim was only a one-night stand, the motivations of the protagonist become much more complicated, but the protagonist isn’t developed well-enough to understand her background. As a result, it is difficult to find a point to which one can able to connect to the film emotionally.

Additionally, the movie is very over-sexualized for no apparent reason. Granted, sexuality is not as taboo in European countries as it is in the States, but the film still seems excessive and over-the-top. There are a handful of prolonged sex scenes in the movie that don’t really add anything to the narrative, and this is the film’s biggest sin. It is one thing to be sexually explicit with a purpose. However, when a movie is explicit and doesn’t do anything with that sexuality, time is being wasted. The runtime is an hour and fifty-three minutes, and if some of the unnecessary sex would have been cut out, it could have been ten minutes shorter.

naples in veils statue
Giovanna Mezzogiorno as “Adriana” in “Naples in Veils” by Ferzan Ozpetek.

Because of a combination of all of these factors, the film drags significantly. There are definitely entertaining moments in the movie, and it starts with a literal bang, but one can’t help but feel that the film needed something more. Since the plot is so generic, the movie is so easy to follow that even if your mind begins to wander, it is easy to catch back up with the story in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, the film is almost instantly forgettable and may become blended in your mind with the scores of other erotic neo-noir thrillers that have come before.

The actors all do a solid job in their roles, but they are given disappointingly little to do in the movie. The level of talent that the actors have is evident and makes you wish that the script had been more unique to give them room to show their range. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is a compelling leading lady, having the emotion to pull the character off if only there were any real emotion to be had. Alessandro Borghi successfully pulls off the dual role, but it wasn’t that difficult of a task since neither character had very much personality anyway.

It is on a technical level that the film is most impressive. The movie looks absolutely gorgeous, taking full advantage of the picturesque sights that the setting of Naples has to offer. Apart from the whole murder mystery thing, the film will make you want to get up and take a trip to Italy because of how beautiful it looks. The cinematography is great, with fluid camera movements elegantly capturing the action of the scene. The score is also good, with the classical Italian instrumentation doing an excellent job of drawing you into the movie’s setting.

Overall, Naples in Veils was largely disappointing. Although it looks great, the script lacks the originality that would make it as entertaining or impactful as it should be. As it is, the film is sadly rather boring.

Naples in Veils is now playing in select theaters and is available on DVD and VOD beginning April 23.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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