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Four Stars on Five"Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" ("Piavono Ombre" roughly translated to English - "It Rains Shadows") is the third feature from Gothic, the simple name of the Gothic Multimedia Project from Italy, which started as a band led by James Maximilian Jason in 1989. From then until 2000 they produced ten music demos in a death gloom metal style. In 2004 theGMP premiered its first proto-multimedia work - "Grim," consisting of a couple of CDs and a CD-R featuring drawings and a multimedia video melding music, graphic art and poetry. In 2007 they published something called "Anti-box," which was a multimedia reinterpretation of the aforementioned demos. Next, in 2010 they released "Clam Dolenter," an interactive film with music, art and poetry. "Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" is sort of something entirely different, yet not, as it is an extension of what was previously done by the GMP, yet on a much larger scale. This is an interactive movie blending music, cinema, art and poetry. The interactivity comes from the choices the watcher must make during the course of the viewing which affects the path, or plot. One might liken it to some sort of video game, but not really, as there is no scoring points, no shooting, no winning. But like life, which is a series of choices, the thing you decide will affect what happens, andpossibly even the outcome.The story opens with the protagonist, Alessandro Zamboni, a dull, lonely, unhappily married, middle-aged man at a seminar on Ambient Intelligence, which is rather boring. Zamboni is a corporate executive who prefers to attend these kind of events rather than face anything challenging. At the seminar he meets a former acquaintance, GianmariaPagano, who is a bit of a hipster asshole. Pagano convinces Zamboni to go out that evening with him to meet some hot women. They end up at a trendy bistro bantering with two women and Pagano has the waiter spike Zamboni's drink. Later, the waiter comes back and tells Zamboni there's a phone call for him. Disturbed and puzzled that anyone could be calling him here (he didn't tell anyone where he was going), Zamboni shuffles off to answer the phone, and that is where, you, the viewer have to make the first choice - answer the phone or forget about it and rejoin your company. Whatever you do, nothing will be the same after that. Depending on what you choose, the movie takes the protagonist to a different environment with its own set of images and challenges. There is a 32 page booklet with the DVD that gives insight into each scene, and it's important to coordinate reading the booklet while watching the video if you want a deeper understanding of what you'reexperiencing. It may not help you make any choices directly, but being informed is usually a good idea. Then again, you can just experience it blind, and it may end up making about as much sense as David Lynch's "Inland Empire".Regardless of which initial path you take, down the line the viewer encounters more choices, always two, this or that. Depending on what you choose, the action, or scene goes in a different direction. Some are dead ends, sometimes literally. The text of the booklet encourages the viewer to make choices based on emotion rather than logic. I suppose I opted for a combination, depending on the choices offered. In this way, this work may not play the same for different individuals. Without giving anything away, you will encounter the art of David Bosch (who also acts as the protagonist in the movie) in drawings and paintings. Bosch's artwork is surreal, macabre and expressionistic, sometimes paying discreet homage to artists such as Dali, Munch, and others. Rife with symbolism, you could spend a good amount of time contemplating the pieces you encounter. Many of the scenes you will encounter are strange to bizarre, and the continuity could be called questionable without the booklet. The movie seems to be shot on video, so there is a low-budget look about it. The special effects are old-school; superimposition, negative colorization, grainy, split-screen, etc. You won't be seeing any expensive fancy-schmancy CGI effects here, which in a sense is a relief as that has become the staple of so many big-budget films today. The music is uniformly good, and appropriate, ranging from goth-electro-industrial to dark ambient. Most of the dialogue of characters occurs during the opening couple of scenes (before you have to make your first choice), and that is in Italian with English subtitles. There is nothing especially remarkable about the acting, but if there was, you might be tempted to form an attachment to characters that wouldn't serve you well later down the line. There are reasons for the main character seeming to act as bland as he does (initially), and the booklet explains it well. (It has to do with his indifference.)Sort of like certain types of video games, once you have made a choice, you can't go back; no do-overs, no skipping. For example, when I made the initial choice to have the protagonist answer the phone, I found myself in a certain environment that made me wonder what would have happened had I not done so. I had to see the events play out to theirconclusion and restart the video from the beginning before I could find out what would happen had I chosen otherwise. I actually respect this aspect as it makes the viewer responsible for the choices made. There are times though that when you make a dead-end choice, you will be returned to the same choice screen (after the scene plays out) and you had better make the other choice, or you are doomed to repeat the same scene again. (The scene with the vagrant panhandler comes to mind.)Some aspects I didn't particularly care for were scenes that seemed tedious- walking long distances in the snow with nothing happening, a long, long drive, running through a town, etc., and I felt they could have been made more interesting without detracting from the filmmaker's intent. Another was redundancy- showing the same images over and over. Perhaps I'm just too impatient. I also would have liked a bit more dialogue and character interaction after the initial scenes as it might have helped me to understand better what the protagonist was experiencing. Still, there is plenty of creativity over all, and a neat, enigmatic mystery to unravel. Some of the poetry in the book is in Italian, so if you aren't fluent in the language you will have to rely on some sort of translator or it will be lost on you. The experience can be as deep or as shallow as you choose, but more rewarding if you choose to go deep, and maybe best if viewed alone."Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" is the result of six years of work, incorporating 28 musicians, artists, actors, graphic designers and technicians to put this together. For aficionados of the avant garde, this work will give you a lot to chew on, and its diversity (in a number of aspects) will likely have you returning to it for more. -Steve Mecca

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