In 1814 French scientist and mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace published what came to be known as THE LAPLACE’S DEMON, it contends that if one can comprehend and analyze the location of all”items of which nature is composed” they could effortlessly predict the future. A sort of mathematical version of predetermination it has since fallen out of favor. The film THE LAPLACE’S DEMON makes this the centerpiece of a wonderful throwback to films of the 50’s and 60’s with a strong emphasis on Italian Gothic horror.
Using it a team of scientists have managed to come within a few points of probability of determining how many pieces a dropped glass will break into. Hoping to get help closing the gap they journey to the island mansion of a reclusive professor. However they find he’s not there, but he has left a tape, they are trapped there until morning, part of his experiment. A model of the mansion populated with chess pieces displays their actions in real time as one by one they disappear.
Shot in beautiful black and white, with old school rear projection effects and a plot right out of so many old dark house type films right down to the absent host leaving messages for the guests. What makes it different is using a mathematical theory as the cause of the killings rather than a voodoo curse or greed over someone’s will. Though there is a will involved, free will and the question of whether we have it or whether everything we do is part of a complex equation.
Shot in Italian with subtitles, this could easily pass for a lost film by the late Mario Bava, a twisted take on 10 LITTLE INDIANS by way of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Beautiful to look at and using enough familiar tropes to make the viewer feel comfortable before throwing them off with some clever twists, THE LAPLACE’S DEMON is as much a mystery as a horror film and observant viewers may figure it out before the end, but it’s still fascinating watching the characters try to solve the mystery and survive.
Certainly one of the more obscure titles in this year’s Fantasia Festival, THE LAPLACE’S DEMON is also one of the most pleasant surprises.