La stanza opens in Rome where an older man is driving to meet his lover. He arrives at his lover’s flat and is immediately gunned down in a professional hit. Cut to Tunisia and Silvia (Lea Karen Gramsdorff) and her husband, Marco (Roberto Farnesi). A lawyer visits the couple and tells them that Silvia’s father has been murdered. It appears that it was the work of the mafia, and he recommends Silvia to not return to Rome. Silvia and Marco conduct tourist tours for a living and are in the middle of a very unhappy marriage—Marco is extremely abusive towards Silvia. Cut to Denise (Monreale) whose husband attempts to rape her in the kitchen. Denise kicks him in his groin and escapes. Her husband calls some thugs to go and beat upon her. Denise is confronted by three thugs and is about to get raped again when Silvia and Marco’s tour bus happens upon them. Marco scares off the thugs, and Silvia offers solace to Denise. The two women feel a strong bond and promise to see each other again. One evening, Marco becomes angry and locks Silvia outside in a shed. The following morning she flees to the home of Denise and her husband. They tell her that she can stay. When Silvia returns to her home to gather some things, Denise accompanies her. When Marco becomes violent again, Denise shoots him. She says it was an accident, as the two ladies dispose of his body…
I have had a huge crush on Cinzia Monreale ever since I first saw her in Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (1981). I will see anything that in which she appears. Despite the fact that her character really only begins her story arc about midway through La stanza, Monreale is the true attraction of the film. Her opening scene is sleazy—not necessarily because it is depicting an attempted rape, but rather in how it depicts it: it is shot in the same manner as a typical, consensual sex scene, despite it being a scene of violence. It is also an opportunity for Monreale to provide nudity. Tunisia appears to be a hot country, and this affords an opportunity for its leading ladies to don sundresses and short shorts. Monreale is enchanting in a bikini. I enjoyed all of this very much. However, my attention span is painfully short, and these scenes soon became repetitive. I was forced to confront the story of La stanza.
While the Italian Wiki entry of La stanza credits Sergio Martino as the producer of the film, I recall seeing only his brother’s name, Luciano, in the credits as producer (he also is credited with the story.). The director is Antonio Bonifacio. The crew of La stanza want to fashion their production as a twist on Diabolique (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955); and the story is constructed painfully transparent in its mystery. Silvia begins to have visions of Marco, supposed to be dead, around the city. She faints and passes out, and Silvia tells her only confidante, Denise, that she is seeing Marco. Denise begins giving her pills to help her stress and allow her to rest. The key scene, about midway through the film that undoes the mystery, is a ridiculously contrived one: Denise tells Silvia that she has to go to the Italian consulate to renew her visa and will be gone most of the afternoon. She goes. The viewer is treated to a scene of Denise calling Silvia from the consulate. Silvia is attacked by a man whom she believes is Marco and she ends up killing him. It is not Marco but Denise’s husband. Doesn’t that trip to the consulate seem a little too convenient?
I possess an average intelligence; apply only rudimentary logic while watching mysteries; and have a high tolerance for ineptitude. Having admitted this, La stanza della fotografia bored me with its tired story and execution. The photography and performances are quite good, with especial mention, of course, to Monreale. However, the world in which these characters populate is far from alluring. Silvia is being set-up to take a fall—this much is obvious. From the first act, it is obvious why she is. The only question remaining is: why am I watching this? Cinzia Monreale. La stanza is recommended only for her die-hard fans.