The Double Hour has been called a film noir, and it does have aspects of a noir, especially in its theme of betrayal and mood of psychological unease. I’m calling it a mystery, because although it isn’t a classic who-dunit or detective story, it’s a story that presents us with riddles and slowly gives us more and more clues to help build an understanding of what’s happening. Furthermore, it keeps shifting ground so that the understanding we think we’ve established has to be reappraised. It reminded me to a certain extent of Memento (2000) in the sense of being a puzzle film in which character motivation and plot are slowly unraveled through several twists that are both familiar and yet unexpected.
It’s hard to write about The Double Hour without spoilers. The protagonist is a young woman named Sonia who has been living in Turin, Italy for a month, having moved there from Slovenia. She works in a hotel as a maid. She goes to a speed-dating event and meets an ex-cop named Guido. They start seeing each other, and he takes her to the estate where he’s a security guard. At this point the plot kicks in, and things start to get very weird.
I call this a mystery, although it also has aspects of a psychological thriller. Sonia seems to be a head case, maybe, and it’s hard to tell if the things she perceives are real or in her head. Guido, who lost his wife three years ago, is emotionally remote and hard to read as well. In fact, it can be said that the film is about the difficulty in reading other people, in understanding what they’re doing and why. The title has a specific meaning within the film, but it hints at doppelgangers, double-crosses, double-takes, double standards.
I liked the mood of mystery and uncertainty, the vague sense of dread and doubt, the fact that it keeps you guessing, keeps you wondering where the story’s going, what the truth is. In the end you know who did what, but there’s still a mystery about motives and about how the characters feel about what they’ve done. Ultimately the mystery here is the mystery of the human heart. It’s film noir as soul journey. It’s the Story as a dream that reveals the riddle of the real.