Until its unconvincing resolution, Le orme—Footprints—is a tense, engrossing fairy tale for adults. Amidst mysterious, lovely imagery, it is continually shifting its narrative foundation, most often in reference to time and identity. From Italy, Luigi Bazzoni and Mario Fenelli’s film comes from Argentinean Fenelli’s novel Las Huellas, which Bazzoni and Fenelli (as Fanelli) co-adapted.
The film’s opening camera’s-eye approach to the moon culminates in a spacecraft’s landing and an astronaut’s exiting. Instead of black and white, we see black and pale green, evoking an eerie Otherworld. Alice Cespi wakes up from her dream, and the film is in full color. (Triple Oscar winner Vittorio Storaro contributes delicate, gorgeous cinematography.) Her dream, we learn, references a film whose ending she missed. (Her life will complete it.) Periodically, snippets of this film interrupt the one we are watching.
Alice, who is Portuguese but lives in Italy, is an interpreter for an international organization; we see her at work at a conference where speeches address the Earth’s fatally endangered environment. Alice has been losing time this week; whole days are lost to memory. Impulsively she visits Garma, Croatia, where her recent “missing days,” it appears, were also spent, but as red-wigged Nicole.
There is a suggestion afoot of Robbe-Grillet/Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad (1961), and the twentieth-century European wars and the Holocaust, to which that film refers, and the end of the world, to which this one refers (the astronaut’s suffocation in the film-within-the-film encapsulates this), mirror-image each other, each underscoring the other. Brazilian-born Florinda Balkan, excellent as Alice/Nicole, casts her own backward look, resembling Alida Valli in such films about postwar European travail as The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949), The Stranger’s Hand (Mario Soldati, 1952) and The Long Absence (Henri Colpi, 1961).
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