Hanna D: The Girl from Vondel Park
Severin // Unrated // $29.95 // October 27, 2009
Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 8, 2009
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Hanna D: The Girl From Vondel Park is an Italian sexploitation film from director Rino Di Silvestro (director of Werewolf Women) that the DVD box cover suggests was once lost and is now found. I'm not sure they found all of it. Despite all the supposedly extreme content, the first thing the viewer is bound to notice is how little sense it makes, transitioning from scene to scene without any awareness or interest in crafting a logical story, just trying to rush Hanna into the next appalling scenario.

We first meet Hanna (Ann Gisel Glass) on a train to Amsterdam from...uh, somewhere, where she's already selling a peep show starring her body to random passengers, with the help of a strange man who subsequently vanishes. She's apparently on her way to live with her mother (Karin Schubert), but the two hate each other so much I don't know why Hanna left wherever she was at all. Eventually (after a bunch of seemingly irrelevant, confusing events), Hanna meets Miguel (Tony Serrano), a sleazy playboy who wants to sell Hanna as a porn star, but on her way to her first shoot, she meets Axel (Sebastiano Somma) on the bus, and falls in love with him. Torn between the two options placed in front of her, she turns to drugs, and eventually descends into addiction.

At least, that's basically what seems to happen. Watching Hanna D. is like watching a movie with an invisible stranger pressing the "scene skip" button on the DVD remote, leaping forward across important plot points at the drop of a hat. For instance, when Hanna is delayed by Axel (the two fall in love over the course of about an hour), the movie first shows us the two in the middle of passionate lovemaking, and then after a cut to an angry Miguel, suddenly Hanna's in a grungy alley, giving her friend a hit that ultimately leads to Hanna's arrest. Then we cut back to Miguel, who's already managed to deduce that Hanna's been arrested, and then cut back to Hanna, who's suddenly going through cold-turkey withdrawals. Er, wait, what? In another series of scenes, it sounds like Axel is dead, but then suddenly he's back, without any explanation of where he was or what happened to him.

Such nonsensical editing would probably just be distracting were it not for the fact that the film is dubbed, and dubbed extremely poorly into English, and the acting is atrocious. Whoever voices Hanna does all right, but the rest of the cast zig-zags wildly along uncharted emotional roads, and the English dialogue is hilariously over-expository, explaining random, minute details while glossing over larger, more important ones. This awkward mixture of overperformed, poorly-written speeches and inexplicable scenes makes the movie mildly hilarious to watch, easily saving the picture from being boring. It all culminates in the best line in the movie -- nay, one of the best stupid movie lines I've ever heard: "You're going to get better even if I have to murder you!"

Silvestro's direction is actually fairly good. The movie's cinematography and composition are strong, unlike most of the other genre films I've seen. Anyone watching the movie for cheap thrills should also be pleased, since there's a lot of wonderfully retro full-frontal nudity, although any arousal will be stunted when Hanna takes another non-graphic injection into the underside of the eyelid or under the tongue, or runs around a house vomiting in search of a hit. There's also a fairly infamous, non-simulated direct shot of a drug vial coming out of a girl's anus, which is unquestionably the most memorable thing in the movie.

The widely-accepted consensus -- so much so that it's mentioned in that DVD box copy -- is that Silvestro's film is a sleazy rip-off of Uli Edel's Christiane F., which also tracks a young girl's descent into addiction, and has a 7.6 on IMDb in comparison to Hanna D.'s 3.3. I imagine Hanna D. won't hold much appeal to anyone who hasn't already heard of or seen the movie, so viewers looking for a more reputable, perhaps even legitimately "good" film experience might want to rent Christiane F. instead, but I found Silvestro's movie to be reasonably amusing in a so-bad-it's-good way for its relatively short 88 minutes.

Hanna D arrives with a nicely-designed DVD cover that uses painted artwork on the front and a clean design for the back, altough the box copy is predictably hyperbolic.

The Video and Audio
Hanna D is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it's a mix of expected print-quality issues and the occasional DVD issue. The film looks like you'd expect it to look: lots of print damage, muddy contrast, yellowish/greenish tints and some softness. However, fine detail is surprisingly high in many scenes, and a few close-ups look as good as new, even exhibiting a touch of dimension. In the technical arena, I spotted a few edge halos and posterization in a scene where a man sneaks into Hanna's room.

Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is a mix of fairly crisp dialogue and slightly muddy music and sound effects, no doubt relating to the dubbing process. It's all audible, though, so it shouldn't pose a problem. The lack of any subtitle tracks is disappointing, though.

The Extras
There's only one real extra on this DVD, called "The Confessions of Rino D." (41:57), a substantial video interview with the late director speaking about what motivated him to write and eventually direct Hanna D., the process of putting the cast together and his directorial style and the research he did, complete with several behind-the-scenes photographs. It's a solid little chat, and it makes for a nice inclusion in the wake of Rino's passing just at the beginning of last month (not to mention I'm thrilled that they found a better way to use the photos rather than lazily assembling them into a photo gallery).

The film's original theatrical trailer is also included.

I don't know about the artistic merits of Hanna D., but Severin has produced the perfect DVD for genre enthusiasts: restored (if far from pristine) picture and sound, plus one really good bonus feature. Again, I don't see a future filled with many newcomers to the film's fan club (could there possibly be one?), but if you've just recently renewed your existing membership, this disc comes lightly recommended.

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