The Girl in the Fog shrouds itself in mood

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      Starring Toni Servillo. In Italian, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      The girl of the title doesn’t have a dragon tattoo. She’s not really even a character in this Italian thriller, in which a redheaded kid goes missing during the very first scene. But it does borrow heavily from the Scandinavian style of murder mystery, mostly concerned with mood and the darker twists of human intellect.

      This entertaining, mist-enshrouded outing is a directorial debut for Donato Carrisi, who has written a number of best-selling detective novels, with The Girl in the Fog a big enough hit to land him his own distribution deal. The finished product gets high marks for style and cleverness, although both feel heavily drawn from familiar sources, right down to the scale model of the tiny alpine town where this takes place. It manages to evoke both Twin Peaks and The Grand Budapest Hotel, with a soupçon of Se7en and a glint of The Shining. Oh, and the fur hats from Fargo.

      Things initially focus on The Great Beauty’s stoical Toni Servillo as his Det. Vogel arrives in the Tyrolean burg of Avechot to investigate the above-mentioned disappearance. Vogel (meaning “bird” in German) is better known for TV grandstanding than for solving cases. His biggest operation, involving someone dubbed the Mutilator, was a notable bust. Anyway, this isn’t Vogel’s first trip to the mountains; he’s just had a nighttime car accident, and local cops have taken him to the office of Dr. Flores (Jean Reno), a psychologist who prompts him to explain what happened.

      That’s where the time-jumping story shifts toward Loris Martini (The Best of Youth’s Alessio Boni), a recent urban transplant lumbered with a moody teenage daughter, a straying wife, and a whole load of debt. He teaches literature at the only high school, and therefore knew the missing girl, who comes from a family of religious fanatics. His becoming a prime suspect doesn’t stop him from giving Dostoyevskian lectures to his students about the role of evil in fiction.

      The new filmmaker himself teaches genre writing at a Milan university, and here he implies that pulp fiction is the only kind of literature that matters. Fortunately, he broadens the story toward more general observations about the connections between cops, criminals, and the voracious media. Still, at more than two hours in length, side characters come and go abruptly, and it gets somewhat bogged down in false endings and narrative twists that are more fun than convincing. Would older inhabitants of this closed world really forget that they had a serial killer in their midst a few decades earlier? Well, it is pretty foggy in Avechot.

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