A film that is totally atypical for Haneke – an emphatically atmospheric suspense story with mysterious protagonists, set in Venice, between visions and reality. The film is based on Peter Rosei's novel of the same title.
A reclusive young man from a rich German family comes to Venice to study art history, but spends more time roaming around the town and enjoying alcohol stupor and cocaine highs. One day he meets a mysterious American Edgar Allan in a café; the latter knows the back story to a drug-related murder in the Venetian high society that is being reported in the press. They meet several times, and Allan sparks interest in the student. While discovering the stranger's identity the young man is having more and more doubts about his own, and about the firm foundations of reality.
“The centre of Peter Rosei's novel are notes and journal entries in which the protagonist tries to focus. In the film as well, this is the axis of the story. Up until this moment the student is becoming more and more confused and panicky because of Allan, the ground beneath his feet more and more fragile, all the way up to the scene in a betting shop where the spectator no longer knows whether the scene is reality or an illusion. Here, the student begins to act. And this is the retardation moment in the film that enables us to step out of the story and not sink into the tension of a suspense story.” (Michael Haneke)