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A fleeing felon believes he sees a body being buried in the garden of a Swiss villa one night just before his arrest. Thirteen years later, he's released from prison and comes back, thinking he can blackmail the three people there: a governess and her son, and the daughter of the missing (and presumed dead) owner of the estate. The daughter rules the roost. She may also be unhinged, going into murderous trances when men take her in their arms. Men menace women; sexual assaults are close at hand. Everyone seems to have their own horrifying memories. Is there a mystery to unravel? Will the dying end? Written by
"Nelle pieghe della carne" (In the folds of the flesh) looks like a Mexican soap opera the story is dramatic and twists are followed by more twists, and the puzzle becomes an enigma, till the conclusion, when everything is "explained". But somehow the answers look more senseless than the story itself. Can the film be called senseless? I don't think so because "In the folds of the flesh" is coherent when regarded inside its fantasy world. Fantasy is a reflection of reality, it portrays our subconscious fears and desires. Seen from this angle "In the folds of the flesh" has a coherent emotional reality, and I think that the best way to see the film is to turn off your brain and use your heart - the brain and logical thinking should function only as secondary tools on seeing "In the folds of the flesh".
Now to the film:
The film begins quoting Freud. If I remember well it was something like that the scars we suffered in our early childhood will be the driving force that will lead us through life...
In a tower/mansion by the beach something terrible happens. A bloody severed head, a woman and children - statuelike - looking darkly, a train goes by very fast... a shrill whistle. A killer on the run. The police close on his heels. Hiding behind bushes he sees a woman burying somebody. A very dramatic score underlines the scenes. The killer is finally arrested and the policemen go away. The tower is left alone with its dark secrets. Years go by but memories don't die. Mother, Daughter and Son. The father disappeared years ago. Terrible memories haunt them.
Brother and sister like to indulge in sexual games. In the gardens by the sea, the birds, in their big cages, shriek. Murders happen. Decapitations, strangling. Flashbacks of rape, naked women being led to a Nazi gas chamber!. The tower, the unexpected visitors... the bodies must be disposed off....
By now you'll be thinking that the film is completely insane and you'll be right, but (as I said before) there's an emotional logic that links everything.
Like all good gialli, "In the folds of the flesh" has a beautiful visual style - fast and creative editing, bizarre zooms, weird camera angles ... but the orchestral soundtrack is unusual for a giallo - sometimes sad and melancholic and sometimes threatening and full of gloomy forebodings. It's a soundtrack more appropriate for a melodrama, for a soap opera, than for a giallo, but it has hit the nail on the head because "In the folds of the flesh" is in fact a melodrama, or rather, a melodramatic giallo. It has many layers and contradictions. It is superficial, but this superficiality has unknown depths. Freud, rape, incest, murder, Nazi gas chambers, love, betrayal, loneliness, everything mixed together in this crazy giallo. The world is seen through the subconscious (fear, illusions, desires...) in a film that looks like a fantasy soap opera.
"In the folds of the flesh" features an interesting cast that makes it a must for cinephiles: Eleanora Rossi Drago, one of the great ladies of the Italian cinema, was the main actress of such films as "Le Amiche" by Antonioni and "Estate Violenta" by Zurlini. Anna Maria Pierangeli, another amazing actress, best known for her Hollywood films. Fernando Sancho - the laughing Mexican bandit in many spaghetti westerns (!) and many others.... See them all together in a giallo, well, that's something!
Those that expect a sleaze fest will be disappointed. This film was made in 1970, in a time when the giallo was about to start off. "The seducers" that was made one year earlier, namely in 1969, had already broken many boundaries, but I guess that, in that time, it was not widely released. So, most of the sex in "In the folds of the flesh" is more implied than directly shown, but anyway the film is filled all over with a highly-charged sexuality visual sexual innuendos, kisses, games... Innocence, lurking lust, violence.... The story has twists after twists, and then other twists and still more twists, and it looks like the labyrinth of Crete. The images that follow each other and that disclose more and more the horrifying truths (!) are so over-the-top as to be really funny. But there's seriousness and emotion in the storytelling.
In short, "In the folds of the flesh" could be labeled as a melodramatic giallo, but it is much more than that. The film has many, many layers, but it's not as complicated as it might seem by my description. Forget about logic and let the heart be your guide and you'll see that the film is quite simple. Don't try to understand the film (anyway there's no need to worry, everything is "explained" in the end), just feel it.
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