Scandinavian premiere – Siren Competition
Sara Summa // Germany // 2019 // Drama / Horror // 79 min // Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB)
Cast: Canio Lancellotti, Pasquale Lioi, Barbara Verrastro, Donatella Viola
Language: Italian // Subtitles: English
Less than two minutes into her astonishingly confident feature debut, Sara Summa’s title card states true facts: “On a Saturday night in late summer 2012, the Durati family was killed during the robbery of their house.” Read through the windshield of a car that creeps along winding roads – the eventual murderers’ point of view – the director combines cause and effect to make us understand that we, the viewers, are about to witness the last day in the lives of this doomed family. We, the viewers, are The Last to See Them and the acute awareness that we will be powerless to prevent it is akin to a sinking sensation that deepens over time.
Free from sensationalism, The Last to See Them never puts viewers in the shoes of disaster tourists. Summa avoids voyeuristic creepiness by suffusing each frame with a profound sense of humanity and compassion as we follow the daily routine of every family member and build a strong sense of intimacy with characters we come to know as people of flesh and blood. When, for instance, teenage daughter Dora rides off to the grocery store, singing off-key in a questionable English accent, we feel the truth of ‘imperfections making us endearingly human’ – a touch of realism that The Last to See Them nails time and again as it makes the mundane meaningful.
Beautifully shot, with all the grace and tranquility of an Italian pastoral portrait soon to be perturbed, Summa’s film boasts a score that’s as classical as it is foreboding. She maximizes the feeling that death visibly announced is always harrowing and turns The Last to See Them into the emotional equivalent of visiting a terminally ill relative. Made painfully aware of every moment, how can you not sit on the edge of your seat and pay the closest attention?
A work about the ephemerality of life – a constant and poignant reminder that we are all just a finite number of breaths away from becoming ghosts – The Last to See Them stings with the lingering sense that the afterlife lurks just around the corner.
Text: Tom Kiesecoms