Title: The Laplace's Demon (Fantasia 2017)

Also known as:

Year: 2017

Genre: Mystery / Suspense

Language: Italian

Runtime: 105 min

Director: Giordano Giulivi

Writer: Giordano Giulivi, Silvano Bertolin, Ferdinando D'Urbano, Duccio Giulivi

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5791732/

A research team studying the idea that there is code behind probability — that a person could use a formula to predict behavior and to challenge the very idea of destiny. This research catches the attention of a professor who invites the team out to his secluded mansion to discuss their work. However, when they arrive, they soon find out that they are in fact the professor’s test subjects as he declares that he has already discovered the formula. Now he wants to test it out by challenging his guinea pigs to survive the night in his home with an unknown monster hiding in the shadows. A monster that will pick off each member based on the predictable choices that they make.

Our thoughts:
There’s nothing wrong with creating something that is a homage to a bygone era or filmmaking form but the wave of nostalgia pandering — with the ‘80s nostalgia being the worst — has reached a point of becoming depressing. Thankfully a great deal of the work on display at the Fantasia International Film Festival has escaped this tiresome trend. However, Giordano Giulivi’s “The Laplace’s Demon” is a film that does appear to be going for an older look. It’s sell sheet came with claims of channeling Mario Bava and Val Lewton with the structure of a “Twilight Zone” episode. It’s easy to see where those comparisons come from but Giulivi does try to do more by making something that has a sense of familiarity but still has a dose of originality too.

In his film, a team of scientists researching if it is possible to predict or even find a formula for probability — to be able to decode. Their work catches the attention of a professor who invites them all to his isolated mansion to discuss their work. When they arrive, the group soon learns that they are in fact guinea pigs in a experiment being conducted by the professor. In a pre-reordered conversation, this unknown figure informs the group that he has deciphered the code but to prove his theory he locks them in a mansion with an unknown forcing that’s picking team members off one by one. Using a model of chess pieces that plays out in real time — as a way of mocking his unwilling participants — the professor wants to show that he can predict each person’s fate in the face of an unidentifiable threat.

Using something like the Chaos Theory as a plot device, it would have been easy for “The Laplace Demon” to succumb to its own concept. Focusing too much on how this purely theoretical concept would actual work in a scenario such as this, while not dealing with the actual characters or story. Instead they use this idea more like a gimmick. Like a Val Lewton or a William Castle film. The film is about the mystery and the atmosphere of being trapped in a mansion. “The Laplace’s Demon” is essentially a ghost movie without the ghost. Giordano and his team of writers use the idea of predicting behavior to aid the film’s atmosphere — the tension comes from the question of whether or not it is possible to go against your own way of thinking. And they use it within their story to allow the audience to simply watch the mystery unfold and not deconstruct any improbabilities that may exist within the practicality of this theory. They avoid having the audience view “The Laplace’s Demon” the way they do with time travel movies where they look for holes in logic.

With this approach, “The Laplace’s Demon” was an entertaining watch because you do in fact allow yourself to be caught up in the mystery. You’re not trying to solve the mystery before the movie does but you engage with the story's every twist and turn. The way in which the film was shot helps bring you into the world too. Even though the use of digital effects and artificial environments is obvious, the film still captures the aesthetics of thrillers and horror movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s. That specific aesthetic is important because they were so thick with atmosphere that even a curtain blowing in the wind was ominous. “The Laplace’s Demon” captures that. Where you question every person in the room and fear what might be lurking in every dark corner. That sort of filmmaking might come across as dated to some but for this particular story, it works because you can't help but be enveloped by the atmosphere and mystery. Even if you know where the story is going or what characters are going to do, you still enjoy the ride that the film takes you on.

One issue that does come up with the film though is that it is set in modern times — there are computers and the group converses with the professor through a videotape and television set. And while that’s not a bad thing necessarily it doesn’t mesh well with the “The Laplace’s Demon” overall aesthetic. The mansion itself and the model that shows what’s occurring in those that the characters watch are closer in time to what the film is trying to capture. There’s even a point where the characters turn on a gramophone. The reason modern technology becomes an issue is because of how well Giordano and his team are able to make “The Laplace’s Demon” feel like an older movie. Whenever something of a digital persuasion shows up, it honestly becomes distracting. You’re taken out for a moment and reminded that this is a new-old movie. It becomes disruptive of the viewing experience.

As disruptive as it might have been, “The Laplace’s Demon” never lost its entertainment value. I don’t know exactly what their goal was when they wrote and shot the movie, but Giordano and his team did a commendable job of creating an inspired homage to vintage thrillers. Even though the film carries a broad concept of whether or not probability has a formula, and if it does, is it possible to change if your life depends on it, the film never loses itself to this concept. It’s efficiently used to push a mystery story and take an audience on tense ride on whether or not a group of scientists can survive be locked inside a mansion with an unknown threat.

Positive things:
- A fun mystery to let yourself become immersed in.
- Does a fantastic job of capturing the look and feeling of old thrillers.
- Doesn't bog itself down with the concept of the Chaos Theory.
Negative things:
- The use of technology becomes disruptive to the film's style.

Gore: 0/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 3/5
Effects: 2.5/5
Comedy: 0/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:






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