“Human emotions are like works of art. They can be forged.”Billy Whistler
Originally titled The Best Offer on release, the newer title Deception is blunter but more thematically descriptive of writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s study of a lonely art expert who becomes intrigued by a reclusive heiress and a collection of clockwork components in her possession. Geoffrey Rush draws out Virgil Oldman’s contradictions: he is fastidious but capable of kindness, he takes pride in his professionalism yet deceives clients about the veracity of certain artwork so he can acquire it cheaply. Sylvia Hoeks is mysterious and alluring despite being restricted to acting with her voice alone for half the film. Tornatore conjures atmosphere effectively, but his allegory comparing human interaction and artistic immitation is ponderously repetitious and lacks real substance. Nor can the quality of the acting save the story with a twist telegraphed so frequently that it becomes frustrating. Deception is heavily atmospheric, aided by Fabio Zamarion’s beautiful cinematography that, like the protagonist, can be both aloof and intimate, with grand shots like Oldman’s illicit collection of portraits dwarfing him as they gaze down. As an atmospheric character study Deception works, then, but that leaves a considerable balance that does not.