Hanna D

Hanna D (Rino Di Silvestro, 1984)

The Girl from Vondel Park

This Amsterdam-shot, Italian/French-produced rip-off of Uli Edel’s depressing CHRISTIANE F. opens with the seduction of schoolgirl Hanna (Ann Gisel Glass) in a train compartment by an older man while her father is elsewhere.  It turns out that Hanna is not-so-innocent as the man who seemed to be her father is actually her pimp and after the older man leaves, he’s got a three-way with a couple organized.  Hanna’s mother (Karin Schubert) is a drunken nympho whose toyboy Hans is constantly walking out on her and then coming back when he needs money (we learn in a flashback that Hans had tried to molest Hanna and that Hanna’s mother blames her for the incident and constantly sends her to get Hans back).

When Hanna gets fed up with whoring to support her mother – who blames her for her supposed loss of looks and her “beastly” body – she walks out and takes to the streets to turn tricks for her own profit.  Despite discovering the body of a friend overdosed on heroin and witnessing a strung-out man kill himself, Hanna also takes to the drug to deaden her emotional pain (though she is seen earlier sniffing coke).  Hanna is rescued from a scuffle with a territorial prostitute by motorcycle-riding Miguel (Antonio Serrano).

No sooner has Miguel wined and dined Hanna and taken her into his bed (in one of the film’s dissolve-heavy love scenes) than he is getting her into work in porn films with him as her manager.  Not one to put all his eggs into one basket, he also has her hooking by night to further supplement their income.  Things take a turn when Hanna meets Axel (Sebastiano Somma) who falls in love with her.  Things turn ugly when a romp through Amsterdam causes Hanna to miss an important appointment set up by Miguel.  While visiting a prostitute friend, Hanna is caught in a raid and jailed where she goes through withdrawal; fortunately, her fellow hookers have what she needs hidden in various orifices.  Miguel bullies Hanna’s mother into appealing to the judge’s sympathies and getting Hanna out of jail.  While explaining to Miguel why she missed the appointment and got caught in the raid, Hanna neglects to mention anything about Axel but Miguel already has his thugs finding out the truth.  Hanna tries to keep her distance from Axel but he persists and gets beaten by Miguel’s thugs for his efforts.  Hanna professes her love for Axel to Miguel who seems to have genuinely fallen for her despite his brutality and degrading remarks.  Hanna is sent back onto the streets as a prostitute by Miguel.  She is so strung out that she does not notice that her latest client is Axel who steals her away to his home and forces her into withdrawal and then goes after Miguel despite Hanna’s pleas.

Directed by Rino Di Silvestro (WEREWOLF WOMAN) under the name “Axel Berger” (but scripted under his own name), HANNA D. is a co-production between France’s Jacques Letienne and Italy’s Beatrice Film who produced several eighties films directed by this film’s editor Bruno Mattei including VIRUS, RATS: NIGHTS OF TERROR and the two Laura Gemser/Emanuelle prison movies.  Composer Luigi Ceccarelli (also a veteran of several eighties Mattei productions) provides a nice electronic score as well as a cloying theme song (actually not that bad in context).  The happy ending may seem inappropriate and a cop-out but director Di Silvestro reveals in the DVD’s interview his belief in redemption after a descent into hell.  Even without that context, it is obvious that the director feels great sympathy for Hanna (perhaps too much as there are so many shots in which the camera holds on beautifully lit “perfect” static shots of Hanna staring off into nothing whether drugged, delirious, devastated, or happy).  The participation of cinematographer Franco Delli Colli (WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR DAUGHTERS?) also suggests the lofty aspirations of Di Silvestro and his producers Jacques Letienne and Roberto Di Girolamo.  Delli Colli’s lighting is consistently beautiful with even the sleaziest of Hanna’s sexual encounters bathed in warm gold light and the various warehouses the prostitutes hang out in streaked in blue light contrasting with the bonfires.  Some thought also seems to have gone into the colours of the clothing and set dressings as they also contribute to the pleasing compositions.  The opening credits also thank Italian clothier Francesco Casani for the tailoring of leather and furs for the film (and the prostitutes do look smashing in them throughout).

Glass (dubbed by Pat Starke) certainly possesses the angelic look that Di Silvestro says he was looking for when he picked a French actress and she acquits herself believably throughout (her abrupt changes of mood throughout can be blamed more on the editing which tries to surprise us by transitioning from scenes of Hanna in love to Hanna taking another shot of heroin in an eyelid or in her hair and vice versa.  Schubert (dubbed by Carolyn De Fonseca) gives her all as Hanna’s mother; doffing her clothes as usual but also getting to do a lot of crying and shouting.  Somma (dubbed by Ted Russoff, I think) is okay as Hanna’s true love but he is upstaged by Lombardi as Hanna’s pimp/lover Miguel.  As soon as Somma came onscreen, I kept wondering where I had seen him before but I could not place his face in any film but a look at his IMDB filmography reveals that he was the Swiss cop who talks to Cristina Marsillach in the last scene of Argento’s OPERA).

Severin’s DVD presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen (1.77:1) progressive scan transfer which looks quite good with ravishingly attractive colours and only the slightest bit of speckling in one or two shots that may be due to the processing rather than the age of the source.  There is a glitch in an insert shot during the jail scene shoot-up but that glitch also appears in the scene when it is repeated in the documentary so it may be evidence of damaged frames.  Audio is generally clear.  The constant cropping off of the top of heads suggests that a 1.66:1 aspect ratio might have been better suited to the film (it starts to become distracting once you first notice it) but the aspect ratio choice was likely the decision of the licensor Filmexport (from what I’ve been told about other materials acquired from them for another company) but the framing does not seem to obscure nudity which seemed to be the point of contention with the framing of the R1 transfer of Filmexport’s other Di Silvestro holding WEREWOLF WOMAN.  The music – both Ceccarelli’s score and the very eighties theme song – come through boldly while dialogue levels vary but are generally discernable and may be the result of the original mix.

An English language theatrical trailer gives us plenty of cringe-inducing shots of needles about to be injected into various places but holds back on the nudity and gore (the trailer and the film bear a disclaimer stating that the resemblance between those who suffer like Hanna is NOT casual).  Rino Di Silvestro provides a 45 minute interview (shot shortly before his death this year) in which he addresses the critical response to the ending, the casting of the French Glass over Italian actresses, his partnership with Roberto Di Girolamo (from which he likely met Mattei and crew), his working relationship with Delli Colli, the week-long location shoot in Amsterdam and trying to match it with the four week Italian shoot, and his philosophy of storytelling.  Di Silvestro does not mention CHRISTIANE F. but is adamant in stating that this was a story he wanted to tell despite the sources of inspiration that critics have ascribed to the film.

Matting issues aside, Severin Films’ DVD of HANNA D. is an exemplary release thanks to a beautiful transfer and an engrossing interview with the late director.  Di Silvestro’s genuine feeling for the script, the film, and his collaborators comes through not only in the film but also the quality presentation of the disc and its extras (certain other companies would do well to follow their example).  Viewers who think they have seen it all would do well to seek this film out (especially those that think Italian exploitation was already dead in the eighties).                                                                                                     (Eric Cotenas)