Michael Winterbottom’s fictionalised account of the Amanda Knox trial appears to present its mission statement early on, with Kate Beckinsale explaining, “You can’t tell the truth unless you make it a fiction.” Unfortunately, The Face of an Angel – which turns out, in fact, to be a a fictional film about the making of a fictional film about a real tragedy – is less interested in telling truth than luxuriating in the story of, to quote the script, “a middle-aged man (Daniel Brühl) who’s lost his way.”
Attempts at Adaptation.-esque self-reflexivity, or a kaleidoscopic approach to veracity à la Zodiac, fall consistently flat. The film feels like a meandering, feature-length act of denial, burdened with an inability to approach the case objectively and dispassionately. Like Amy, it sneers at the same media frenzy it ultimately aims to profit from; it rankles at ‘sex sells’ one moment, then lingers on Kate Beckinsale sex scenes, or Cara Delevingne cavorting in her underwear.
It’s formally atrocious, too; the ubiquitous Dutch angles are nauseous rather than unnerving, it seems to be aiming for this claustrophobic, hallucinatory tone but misses the mark. The Face of Angel desperately strives for meaning but sure as hell doesn’t find any.