April 21, 2015 9:34 am

Hope Lost by David PetrucciSofia is a beautiful twenty-year-old living a dreary existence in a small city in Romania, wearing herself out in a factory and dreaming of a different fate in front of the box watching Italian television dramas. It is on a night like any other in a disco that Sofia meets Gabriel, an Eastern European producer who has been living in Rome for years and knows all sorts of important people.

Sofia is spellbound by what he has to tell her and when he asks her to follow him that very same night, she is feels torn: he is about to film a new reality show and he thinks there might be a part for her in it. When she gathers her thoughts, Sofia reaches the conclusion that she cannot lose the opportunity of a lifetime and she gets into Gabriel’s car.

Together they approach the outskirts of Rome at night and make a stopover at a farmstead. Gabriel tells her they will be resting there overnight and in the morning they will go straight to the audition. That night Sofia dreams are crowded with pictures of the future, a bright new world full of achievements and aclaim and all else that television can lead to. But what is really waiting for her is a slippery slope to sheer hell.

As the dawn light filters through the sky, Gabriel has gone. Manòl, a dangerous and impotent Slav, has taken his place; he has a hard nose for business and he organises a bevy of extremely young girls from Eastern Europe. Manòl orders Sofia to get dressed quickly; he has left her some provocative clothes, the sort that prostitutes wear. And while his henchman Fabian, an individual with mad eyes, rips her clothes off, Manòl tells Sofia that now she works for him. “Gabriel owed me one and now you have to pay it off.” is the only explanation she gets.

Mors Tua, Vita mea: this is Manòl’s supreme law. Anyone who dares to disobey is meted out ruthless punishment and Sofia soon learns this to her own expense.
Sofia’s life spirals out of control. She is forced to work as a prostitute and she experiences violence, coercion and the steamy squalor of the punters’ cars.

There is no way out: when they are in the hideout the girls are watched by Fabian and when they are working in the streets someone even more dangerous keeps an eye on them: his name is Marius and he is an unscrupulous and brooding giant who flares up into sheer violence at the drop of a hat. Marius beats four punters bloody in front of Sofia after they, up to their eyeballs in cocaine, overstep the mark with some of the girls. He almost kills one by pushing his head repetitively in the car trunk then he goes back to picking at a sandwich as if nothing had happened.

Hope Lost by David PetrucciIn this daily nightmare, the only moments of complicity and affection that Sofia has are those moments shared with Alina, another girl who is accompanies her on the street and in her sleeping quarters. She catches glimpses of a fragments of lost humanity and light whilst all around her the situation is worsening and each time she rebels against her destiny the price to pay is higher and higher. It is impossible to escape. Manòl threatens to kill Sofia’s little brother. The only way out is to pay off the debt. But as Alina explains to her, the debt increases exponentially with steep interest rates. The debt is never going to be settled.

In the immense darkness, a ray of hope seems to materialise in the shape of a regular punter: Eva is a tiny, androgynous woman with a shaved head. She is an ex-soldier from a special unit and after which she has worked as a contractor with a dark and painful past. Although she has a bossy and blunt manner, Eva seems to genuinely care for Sofia and she always asks for a “strange service”: she wants to be cuddled and hugged. It would appear that she can finally find refuge from her fears and sense of foreboding for this short space of time. Sofia falls into the delusion that Eva can help her and make her free. But in the meantime, the situation gets worse when one of Manòl’s jail mates arrives on the scene.
Ettore is a ruthless, hard and unscrupulous criminal who milks all situations for the greatest possible advantage to himself. He pretends to be a priest and gets Sofia to get into his car. He tells her that he only wants to help her and says that he works for an association that fights against the prostitution racket. He promises to protect her if she tells him who her pimps are. Although she is initially suspicious, Sofia falls for the trick in the end and confides in Ettore, telling him that Alina is pregnant and needs help before Manòl finds out. Ettore reveals his true identity later in the evening when all the girls are shut up in the farmstead. The punishment awaiting the two girls is a terrible one: It doesn’t take much for Ettore to convince Manòl to sell them to shoot a snuff move with the help of the “Professor”, a well-educated and calm and collected criminal who is highly familiar with this type of market need.

Made victims of the two criminal bands, Sofia and Alina are shut up in an isolated basement far from anywhere and forced to “play” all night until the morning light comes. The Professor’s rules are quite straightforward: either undergo terrible torture or ask their jailers to torture their friend instead. Mors tua, vit mea

When the horror starts, Eva is torturing someone else: her victim is Marius who has been left behind to guard the other prostitutes. To save Sofia, Eva will have to bring to the fore the darkest part of her black soul and become once more the woman she had so desperately tried to forget…

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