10 May 2005
Alfred Hitchcock would have loved “Alibi.”
This moody thriller’s got a morally ambiguous hero, a beautiful, emotionally scarred woman, a story with more twists than the canals of Venice (where it is set, post-World War II), and several tense set pieces that could have come from the movie director’s playbook.
“Alibi” begins as a family struggle conventional enough to appear in an advice column:
Dear Abby: I was just demobilized from the Army after prosecuting Nazi officers in Germany. I moved to Venice to be near my widowed mother, “Grace.” She recently announced her engagement to “Gianni,” a doctor whose family has lived in Venice for generations. I think he’s after my mother’s money. My Jewish girlfriend says that Gianni helped the Nazis during the war. She even confronted Gianni at a party my mother threw, embarrassing everyone and putting me in the middle. What shall I do? — Adam in Venice
Using his Army contacts in Germany, Adam investigates Gianni’s background and revives the conflicts between those who fought the Nazis and Italian fascists, those who collaborated with them, and the people caught in between. Too many secrets are threatened, including those of Adam and his lover, and murder inevitably follows.
From there, “Alibi” becomes a cat-and-mouse game. Are the police investigating the murder, or hunting for a scapegoat to pin it on? Is Adam really in love, or does he see himself as a knight rescuing a tainted woman? And was the doctor really a collaborator? The answers don?t come easily, and Adam learns that there’s a high price to pay for them.
“Alibi” is set in moody, romantic Venice, whose ancient gray buildings and canals escape the worst of the war .Kanon describes the scene with the eye of a tourist, and its people with the knowledge of an insider: “Above all, the city was still beautiful, every turn of a corner a painting, the water a soft pastel in the early evening, before the lamps came on.”
“Alibi” is a historical thriller that poses complex moral questions and whose resolution is messy and ambiguous, a story with a sting in its tail. Hitch would have approved.