Movie That Respects Its' Audience,
THE UNKNOWN WOMAN is
definitely not an American film--it assumes intelligence & concentration on
the part of the viewer. It is not an "easy" film to watch at times,
graphically depicticing horrific flashback scenes of violent abuse against
women involved in the Ukrainian "sex trade." Fortunately these scenes
are brief & most of the story unfolds in Italy where the main character
Irena seeks refuge from the poverty & terrors of her exploited past. Fear
not: the excellent script, direction & Xenia Rappoport's expert acting skills
do not ask for sentimental tears over another oppressed woman. If anything,
Irena's mode of survival & the actions she takes to further her aims are
sometimes illegal & brutal. How her past affects her present is revealed
slowly--hence the need for a certain degree of attention span.
One scene that really got this reviewer's attention is set in the Ukraine. Irena is trying to escape her corrupt pimp as well as to flee the country. You see her going through a landfill dump yard where she picks out scraps of food to eat. Again, you don't feel obligated to go, "Oh, how terrible!" It's just something she has to do so she does it--sort of like a colorized film noire version of Scarlet O'hara.
The film is the revelation of a character, a strong woman who follows her destiny--and although her fate is far from most people could endure, she manages to find non-romantic love & a place of peace within her soul.
THE UNKNOWN WOMAN is fascinating & deserves a wider audience.