The Italian film The Laplace’s Demon unfolds like a lost episode of the Twilight Zone. Based on the scientific theory of the same name, the film follows seven researchers who are working on a system to predict the future. To test their own version of the titular mathematical theory, the team focuses on predicting how many pieces of glass there will be when a glass is deliberately broken. After completing their experiment, the team of scientists – who believe they have done the impossible and cracked the code of chance and probability – are awarded an invitation to visit the famous professor Cornelius, who lives and works on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. When the group arrives at the mysterious isolated mansion, they are greeted not by their host, but rather by a videotape recording left behind by the mad doctor himself. His silhouette on the television explains the rules of the game, and a model replica of the mansion whichs sits in the middle of the room reveals that the researchers have become pawns in a unique experiment: a real life game of chess. Finding themselves pawns in a death trap programmed with a revolutionary equation that anticipates their every move, the team must work together and do everything in their power to survive the night – only thanks to science, there is a good chance that they’re all doomed.
The Laplace’s Demon toys with the idea of fate vs. free will – and it does so with impeccable style! Giordano Giulvi’s film is a unique movie indeed – a gorgeous, low-budget labor of love that evokes Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians and the classic horror films by Mario Bava, Val Lewton, and French auteur Jacques Tourneur. Giulivi beautifully balances pastiche, homage, and genuine suspense, crafting a gorgeous thriller that blends classic gothic horror, film noir, and probabilistic science-fiction in unprecedented ways. It took seven and a half years to make but this hauntingly beautiful work, but it was well worth the wait. The Laplace’s Demon is not only one of the best films that screened at the Fantasia Film Festival this year, but also a tense, thrilling love letter to classic science fiction and horror cinema of yesteryear. Ferdinando D’Urbano’s black-and-white cinematography is simply dazzling, and the use of old-school filmmaking tricks such as rear projection, creative low key lighting, practical effects, canted angles, beautiful miniatures, and even a clockwork machine goes a long way in evoking its sense of paranoia and dread. Meanwhile, the ensemble cast is terrific, and Duccio Giulivi’s evocative score fits the proceedings perfectly.
Fans of thought-provoking science fiction and those who prefer to simply be entertained will find plenty to enjoy in The Laplace’s Demon, as Giordano Giulivi (who co-wrote the film with Duccio Giulivi) manages to take what could have been a rather complex screenplay and somehow makes it wholly accessible. There’s tension throughout, as The Laplace’s Demon finds interesting and clever ways to explore the patterns of human behavior, and while the use of the model and the chess pieces on paper sounds like a ridiculous concept, it actually works beautifully on screen. Under the monster-movie facade, it’s an intelligent film that successfully builds tension as both pawns and characters are killed off one by one. More importantly, the film never feels the need to talk down to the audience, even as it skillfully toys with our expectations.
The Laplace’s Demon is a bizarre but wildly distinctive film that represents a leap forward for Giordano Giulvi as both a writer and director. This wonderfully original little film is a work of curious and unsettling beauty – an inventive, gently surreal movie that should please those looking for a strange mix of horror, science-fiction, drama, comedy, and mystery.
- Ricky D
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