A sprawling Italian city of our times. The “unknown woman” is Irena. She had come to Italy many years before from the Ukraine, and today lives amidst ghosts of the past and a search for the present: two planes of time that interweave, superimpose, and make up an intriguing puzzle, a taut high-tension narrative. Who is Irena truly? Little by little her story unfolds. The girl had fled Eastern Europe, as so many young women then. After surviving a cruel dramatic voyage, she fell easily prey to ruthless unscrupulous men. She was subjected to unspeakable brutalities and humiliations, the kind that permanently shock memory and can never be put to rest. Only one beautiful memory remains for Irena, a melancholic, heartrending lost love.
Today, Irena appears to us a wan and mysterious figure, yet a woman who still exerts a fascinating appeal. Deep down, despite these tragic events, her character has remained intact. Under a seemingly submissive appearance, her natural pride and fierce rebellious power remain undaunted. The woman seems to have a very precise motive when she solicits the help of the doorman of an apartment building to find work as a cleaning lady there. The man, not at all disinterested, helps her get a job in the building, which is right across the street from where she herself has decided to live. From the window of her apartment, she spies intently upon the building across the street.
Though Irena’s job is to clean and polish the stairs of that building, her true aim is to get close to a family living there. The Adachers are in the goldsmith business. There is the wife Valeria, her husband Donato, and their little girl Tea. Nothing will stop Irena from getting herself a job in their household. Not even murder. At this point, the plan of the “unknown woman” is turned into reality with her inexorable, progressive infiltration into the family. Irena not only succeeds in gaining their trust, but even a certain power over them all. This is particularly true of the little girl Tea. The Adacher’s daughter becomes more and more attached to Irena. Their bond is cemented when the little girl plunges into a deep crisis over the separation of her parents.
Nevertheless, this delicate equilibrium achieved as Irena executes her plan, is short-lived. Not only is she increasingly tormented by nightmares and visions, but a terrifying figure from the past tracks her down in her new city. This is the trafficker “Muffa”, her former kidnapper and persecutor. With his reappearance, she becomes the victim of new horrors, new brutalities, new tragedies. In his ominous shadow, the secret of Irena’s blind obstinacy to become part of this family is revealed. Like a heavy fog that finally lifts, a succession of real and supposed truths emerge, creating new revelations, disavowals, other hypothetical realities.
(Aka Unknown Woman, The)