Nympha (2007) - Sometimes the origins of religion are not what we think they are. Sometimes there is a darkness behind the myth that when exposed makes us wonder how anyone could believe and have faith in the religion. No I am not talking about Mormons, or Scientology but of the sect of nuns in the movie Nympha. Here we have a tale that is dark and contemplative about a woman's journey to find God but in the end only finds monsters. The story written by Ivo Gazzarrini follows the spiritual journey of Sarah (Tiffany Shepis) as she arrives in an Italian monastery to join the order of nuns at the bequest of her bishop. Introduced to pray through the concept of body mutilation by the order Sarah begins to have visions of past residents in the house and seemingly supernatural occurrences. Confused and hurt she survives multiple tortures to her ears, eyes, hands and tongue, with each mutilation comes more of the story of the house and its inhabitants. Ultimately she learns the story of the place and the secret of the nunnery but is it too late to save her soul? The concept of spiritual journey is a interesting one, covered via the pain angle in the Hellraiser series of movies. Here it is a bit of a different take. The journey is through the loss of the body's which serves to narrow the focus of the supplicant. Either way it is a hard way to try to get closer to God.
Shepis is forced to be half of this film and the flashbacks she sees in her pain are the story behind the story. She does well enough in the role but it seems a real script and directing flaw. The story becomes a weird not day, not night dream world in which only the small cast, four or five actors exist. If trying to capture the surreal journey Sarah is taking then it does keep the focus there but ultimately loses the audience with what is a slow developing back story about a crazy religious old man Geremia (Allan McKenna) and his slide into insanity. The secrets of that second story are dark and disturbing, if only the film was better at getting to those secrets it would have gotten better marks.
The buildup comes from finding out what the past story of Geremia is all about. Early on we see him and his crazy daughter Lavinia (Alessandra Guerzoni who also plays Mother Superior in the film) at the farm and in what appears to be a supernatural rapeshe is impregnated. The religiously fanatical Geremia delivers the child himself but loses his daughter in the birth process. He believes God wants him to name the child Nympha and so he must raise her to be in the presence of his God. He is a crazy son of a bitch though and hears voices of God in his attic saying in Italian FAME (hunger) and so his fanaticism turns deadly for those who visit him. We watch his acts increasingly more aggressive as he has difficulty first with a neighbor and then with a doctor, until is seems his God is seeking a more personal sacrifice from him.
The story only unfolds in pieces, with each new mutilation to Sarah in the present, there is another part of the story from the past revealed to her. Director Ivan Zuccon seems to created a fairly compelling mood in the film but the story drags with motionless scenes of minimal activity. There are some rather large reveals in that story in the past, not unforeseen by this viewer but those who stick it out may be a bit surprised by the late turns. The deceptive twist that happens to Sarah though ends up being all for not with an ending that is less than satisfying.
I could have liked this film it it was a bit more creative in its presentation. Still I though the effects although hokie at times were well enough done. The physical effects to Sarah as she is mutilated are done well enough to be believable. There is some really unnecessary nudity in the film, but since the film drags a bit it was a pleasant distraction. Still not of it really needed to be in the story. An example, the first time Sarah is taken to have her ears cut by Doc Rinaldi (Giuseppe Gobbato), Mother Superior tells her to strip completely nude. Other than intimidation there was no need for it. After the surgery she wakes in her room bleeding from her ears and dressed with blood on her clothes. The only real reason was so the audience could see the beautiful Shepis without her clothes.
Later in the film there is also a love making scene between the grown girl Nympha (Caroline De Cristofaro) and Shepis that again has no real bearing on the story but is there for those watching the film to see two lovely female bodies. It is almost like the director knew he had an actress that was fearless and since the pacing was so damn tired he used it to try to improve the movie. If there is one thing that has historically sold in the horror genre it is naked women. Or did the director each scene was enhanced by the nudity? Were the story aspects of the scenes thought out but not well enough for the viewer to "get it"? Whatever the reason Shepis probably does not have to show her body in every film she does. She is a good enough actress that she can start saying no to these skin shots. It added little to the story and probably could have been skipped.
In the end this film does not get a recommendation from this blog. There were way too many times it leaves the viewer thinking, "Lets get on with it.". Although somewhat compelling in tone it just does not have what it takes to hold the audience all the way through. The acting is very good but the set design particularly the lighting were a weekness. The camera did not move enough to make the viewing particularly engaging and really at root the script lacked something.
Rating (3.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.