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Film Review: The Face of an Angel (2014)

There are some things in life such is their mediocrity, such their utter pointlessness, you wonder if the people involved in such travesties were suffering from some temporary form of insanity. The Face of an Angel is one such abomination.

If you ever have the misfortune to be sat on your couch or the couch of a friend and the television announcer tells you that this film is about to air, then you’d be well advised to go and do something more fruitful for an hour and forty minutes: the washing up perhaps, or how about mowing the lawn? IMDB users – over 4,500 of them – rate this as 4.6 – way too generous in my humble opinion.

Right from the first scene this film jumps around like some hyperactive toddler who has been given a trampoline for its fourth birthday. Thereafter it never manages to settle down for more than five seconds before it’s jumping back and forth from one random scene to yet another random scene. Alka Seltzer please!

That’s not to say this film is not entirely without merit: if film students want to know how to concoct a dreadful script with dreadful direction populated by insipid, lifeless characters then The Face of an Angel could be worth its weight in gold.

On the face of it a film about the unsolved murder of British student Meredith kercher in Italy in 2007 sounds like a winner. A true story involving lies, deceit, sex, murder and mystery. It would take a special kind of stupid to miss an open goal as big as this one. Alas, that’s exactly what happens.

Firstly, the fascinating and intriguing characters from the original story upon which this thing is based are noticeable only by their absence. For this is not a film about the unfortunate Kercher nor her alleged murderer, the chilling American femme fatale, Amanda Knox.

This is a film however about the riveting dilemma facing film producer Thomas (Daniel Bruhl) in Siena to make a documentary about the murder. Thomas favours basing his retelling on Dante’s Inferno, presumably because it’s, well, Italian. Perhaps it’s just me, but the parallels aren’t immediately apparent.

Meanwhile he has a failed marriage and young daughter whom he loves very, very much. Suffice to say this is hardly the most original film ever made, far from it.

The question of whether a fictional film can ever truly represent factual events in any meaningful way is, I have no doubt, an interesting discussion to have, but rather on late night radio and among a group of stuffy academics, not the main - only - topic of a 100-minute feature film.

And so, it drags on and on and on. Thomas takes some cocaine, walks around the streets of Siena after dark and is introduced to a slum landlord who also walks aimlessly around Siena after dark. Birds of a feather. That’s about it. There really is nothing else to this BBC-produced mess.

But what about the compelling story of a night of madness inside a student house in Siena? What about it? Far more exciting – at least from the point of view of the writer of this accursed thing – is Thomas’s reading of The Inferno. Such drama. Such suspense.

So, will Thomas get to make a documentary about some murder that happened with some students in the style of the Commedia Dell'arte? Now that would be telling. To find out if Tom gets the green light for his project, you’ll have to watch this film to the end. Well if I had to watch this thing until the bitter end, I don’t see why you should be spared the agony.