Reflections of Light (1988)
By: Mr Intolerance on May 24, 2010  | 
Sinful Mermaid | All Regions, NTSC | 4:3 | Italian DD 2.0 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Mario Bianchi
Starring: Pamela Prati, Gabriele Tinti, Loredana Romito, Gabriele Gori, Laura Gemser, Jessica Moore
Screenplay: Francesco Valitutti
Country: Italy
External Links
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Whatever you do, if you are planning on giving Reflections Of Light a go, don't turn the cover over and read the synopsis on the back, first. It tells you the whole story from beginning to end, spoilers and all – did the distributors not want people to buy the film?

Anyway, Federico (Gabriele Tinti, whose face should be very familiar to fans of Euro-sleaze) is mourning not only the death of his wife Chiara (real-life spouse Laura Black Emanuelle Gemser), but also his current life with his son Marcello (Gabriele Gori) and new partner Marta (Pamela Prati). Wheelchair-bound, resentful and bitter, Federico thinks that their claims of love for him are merely pity, and his treatment of them mirrors this resentment. He is physically abusive towards Marta, driving her into the arms of live-in secretary Giorgia (Loredana Romito), and dismissive of young, optimistic Marcello's desires to race horses – calling him nothing but "a dreamer."

Now, y'see, Federico is/was a successful composer – the ambiguity there was deliberate, as he hasn't been able to write for three years. For three years he's been holding onto guilt, and it's slowly but surely grinding him down. In flashbacks with Chiara he certainly presents as a much different person – happy and affectionate. In the present day, however, Federico is the opposite of this, and his rage, frustration and shame with himself he turns upon others, seeing them and their pursuits as being ultimately meaningless. Not a fun fellow to be around.

Life in the villa is uneasy and awkward for the four of them, with Federico at odds with both his son and girlfriend. Marcello is actively trying to make sure that he doesn't end up like his father, seeing him as merely "defeated", having given up on everything. Marta is likewise unsatisfied with Federico – despite her genuine and optimistic attempts to bring him out of himself and maintain an emotional proximity with his son (who Federico has convinced himself doesn't need him anymore) – and is treated by him like a sex-toy; love-making has no sensitivity, bordering on simply being an attack; it happens as he wants it to regardless of what she wants, and he dismisses her directly afterwards. And honestly, apart from the sex, you really have to wonder why our boy Federico became involved with anyone again in the first place. But as the film progresses in the present with the occasional expository flashback scenes, most things do become clear by the end of the film.

Everybody's frustrated with something here: Marta with Federico's callous, bordering on the vicious, behaviour with her and his dissociation from Marcello; Federico's frustration with himself and his past, which in turn makes him spiteful to the world; Giorgia's frustrated with Marta, who seems curious and interested in their sexual relationship, but cannot fully forget Federico; and Marcello is frustrated with his father's ennui and self-pity. To forget this and regain his natural optimism, Marcello saddles up his favourite horse Egon (I thought all race horses had to have random names that sounded like beat poetry: Lord Swizzle-stick, or Electric Mucus or the like) and narrowly avoids being run down by, and then running down Gaia (Jessica Moore), who is quite possibly the world's worst motorcyclist. To celebrate making a new friend and the prospect maybe of some romance eventuating from it, Marcello goes back home to sit in a small dark room with Marta, to thoroughly depress himself with watching a slideshow of images of his father from when he was a happier man – you know, just to really remind himself how life really sucks now, and to try to forget the brief moment of happiness he just enjoyed. In an ensuing conversation, it's also revealed that Federico may one day walk again – the doctors believe this is possible, but it depends on him – but as we know, Douglas Bader he ain't. Re-learning to walk would require enthusiasm, dedication and determination, and unless someone's started bottling those three things, then Federico's got no recourse to them, because they certainly aren't coming naturally to him.

However, Federico has started playing again (although he stresses he's not composing), and even manages to be able to talk with Marta in a friendly way, much to Giorgia's annoyance. Marcello seems to be hitting it off with Gaia, and everything seems to be going so well – but then shade only works with light to offset it. And the shade reappears when spiteful, jealous, jilted Giorgia decides to let Federico know about her trysts with Marta, and further to remind him that of late his performance as both a lover and father has been rubbish. Hardly the appropriate thing to be saying to your boss, you would think – and definitely not to somebody who seemed as though they were just starting on the long and difficult road to recovery. But then again, when some people are unhappy, they just want to bring everyone down with them – and bringing Federico down is not exactly a difficult task, to put it mildly. And so the brief moments of light experienced by Federico, Marta and Marcello are extinguished quite expertly; Giorgia having manipulated Federico's almost ungovernable self-hatred to such an end – but is it for good, or only a temporary setback? You'll have to see for yourself, won't you?

I guess that if you were trying to intellectualise Reflections Of Light, you'd say that it was thematically about a range of things: hope and despair, mainly – the dreams and ambitions that symbolise them in the script – and whether they are worth attempting as the spectre of defeat always looms large in the background. Is the end worth the dejection that attends the possible failure? It's certainly reflected in both Federico and Marcello – they're two sides of the same coin in that regard. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to suggest this, as the word "dreams" is quite prevalent in the script, and particularly in regard to Marcello's desires not to win, but simply to compete, to engage with what he truly wants – the attempt is worth more than the actual outcome.

Reflections Of Light is a bit of an oddity, really. I get the impression that the director was trying to make a film with a bit of raunch, but honestly it's about as sexy as sticking your hand into a bowl of cold lard. The camera work is fine, the acting was generally better than I was expecting, the plot was a little predictable (parts of it seemed to riff on DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, albeit not too hard) although not riddled with cliche, but the whole simply seemed to be something that just didn't gel. Plus, the plot, acting and general air of melodrama made it seem like a well-made soap opera for adults, albeit a little (and really only a little indeed) more graphic than most.

There's a clinical coldness that stops this from working successfully as an "erotic" movie. There is no heat to the sex scenes, and nobody much seems to be having any fun: Marta is used, whether by Federico or Giorgia; Federico uses Marta in an almost mechanical fashion, while quite clearly thinking of Chiara; Giorgia's attempts to seduce Marta reek of almost desperation, obsession and dependence. The tagline on the front cover fairly pants, "A torrid tale of passion, lust, and sexual blackmail!" That sounds promising, I thought – a shame then that the story didn't really deliver on those promises. There's no sleaze for the exploitation crowd, the sex scenes wouldn't satisfy the raincoat brigade (seeing as how they're simulated, not the real deal), and even if you were trying to market this as a sexy movie for couples (a la the original Emmanuelle films – not the ones Gemser was in, but Just Jaeckin's earlier ones starring Sylvia Kristel – or The Story Of O) – a "sophisticated" tale of romance with some soft-core thrown in for spice, well, it fails there, too. It's about as romantic as auto maintenance. Maybe there was a market for this kind of thing in Italy in the late 80s?

Oh, and if the mention of Laura Gemser has you interested in shelling out for Reflections Of Light, bear in mind that she's hardly in it, and that she brings none of the fun and sleaze from the Emanuelle films with her. As a matter of fact, with her 80s hairdo, I barely recognised her at first.
The picture is completely glitch-free, but the picture is not the sharpest – but is quite clear, nevertheless. The colours are quite vivid, too.
Okay – it's hardly an action-soundfest, so the Italian two-track mono sound is fine, which is more than I can say for the electronic/synthesised parts of the score which dated the film even more than the haircuts on the female leads.
Extra Features
There's a slide show, and that's about it. The distributors have not exactly gone all out, here.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
To be honest with you, if I hadn't seen Laura Gemser and Gabriele Tinti's names on the cover of Reflections Of Light, I wouldn't have watched it. While Tinti plays the part of Federico well enough (to be fair, he's actually very good), and the other actors do their jobs to varying degrees of okay, there simply wasn't enough here to interest me. I was expecting something a little more lurid or grimy – what I got was a gloomy soft-core exploration of guilt, love and family relationships – kind of like a Tinto Brass flick like Cheeky!, but without the fun, the frolicking and the general sense of joie de vivre. Existentialist soft-core? I think we may have a new genre on our hands…

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