The disappearance of a Vatican teenager, Emanuela Orlandi, is something that remains unsolved to date. This 15-year-old girl mysteriously vanished on 22 June 1983 when she was returning from a flute lesson. Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the limited docuseries currently streaming on Netflix, dives into various theories concerning Emanuela's kidnapping. Someone did abduct Emanuela, but who could it be? What could be their motives?
Was she kidnapped because someone wanted to free Mehmet Ali Magha, the man who shot Pope? Was it the work of an international terrorist organization? Or was it simply a case of crime and money? And who was The American? Vatican Girl addresses all the theories. It even interviews a liar who merely wanted to be the center of attention. The series basically intends to convey that Emanuela's family will not give up, and we, too, shouldn't forget about Emanuela. If anyone has some knowledge about the case, step forward and help in the investigation.
The intentions are right, even admirable. But intentions alone do not elevate a movie/series to the level of excellence. Let's not beat around the bush and come straight to the point. Vatican Girl is clumsily stitched together. It's not so different from a standard, soulless Netflix documentary. They all look similar and follow the same pattern. Various texts and animations (a line in this case) come up on the screen and act as visual exclamation points. My major gripe is with the re-enactments, as they seem to cheapen the material. Their presence undercuts the seriousness of the interviewees, and they sometimes unintentionally develop into comic relief. It's nothing but a visual aid for unimaginative audiences who cannot visualize something as simple as, say, a girl closing the door behind her.
Vatican Girl often shows us Google Earth and Google search queries. These moments are genuinely embarrassing and seem to be inserted here for the purpose of galvanizing the viewer into making similar queries online. Sometimes, the actions of the interviewees are choreographed for "dramatic reasons," and it's fairly noticeable. For instance, take the scene where someone opens a box and looks at the pictures. Or the one where a man turns around and types something on the Internet. You can almost see the behind-the-scenes rehearsal, where the director must have fed step-by-step instructions to the person.
Vatican Girl's style is clunky. It merely throws a bunch of images, along with explanations, in our faces and trusts its subject to do the heavy lifting. I would have compared it to a Wikipedia entry, but Emanuela Orlandi's Wikipedia page is better than this series. A news reporter mentions that Orlandi's case is like a Dan Brown novel. A Dan Brown novel is not always well-written but can be thrilling. Vatican Girl, though, has no redeeming qualities. If you are interested in the mystery, read about it online.
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