TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


The Pier on the Lake

Lars Hubrich



Orta San Giulio, a little village overlooking Lake Orta, is postcard-beautiful, a place where people come to relax on vacation, or where pensioners decide to retire. Most people who have taken up permanent residence here are respected, well-adjusted citizens. And they all know each other.

So it comes as a big shock to the small community when the body of Gennaro, a retired school teacher, is discovered on the pier behind his house. There are no signs of forced entry: did Gennaro know his killer?Enea Zottìa, a police chief from Milan, is called in to investigate the murder. From the start, his prime suspects are the three friends Gennaro met for coffee every day.

Over the course of the next three days, Enea conducts interviews with the three men. And with each interview, he discovers more layers hidden beneath the pristine surface of Orta San Giulio. He uncovers a web of infidelity, betrayal and jealousy, at the center of which is Gennaro. Enea’s problem is the over-abundance of motives. The more Enea finds out about the people of San Giulio, the more everyone becomes entangled in each other’s stories.

Soon, Enea is having a difficult time seeing the forest for the trees.


A sentence I have heard on plenty of vacations: “It must be heaven to live here!”; here being some small, beautiful village, or cute, picturesque town, often close to gorgeous lakes. But then, once you start thinking about what it would really mean to live in that small touristy village, during all seasons, you may change your opinion. What may be heaven for a week could well be hell for a lifetime, as Claude Chabrol has shown in more than one movie.

The Pier On The Lake will play with this notion, slowly stripping away the beautiful facade of San Giulio, layer by layer, to reveal the dirty little secrets of its community. We will discover the village through the eyes of another outsider, a fellow tourist, if you will: Enea Zottìa. As he interviews the people of the village, he realizes that appearances in small towns are just as deceiving as they are in the big city. The beautiful surroundings certainly have not bettered anyone’s character in San Giulio.

The form of the script will reflect this process of unmasking. With each of Enea’s interviews, we slowly uncover new things. Each day, we get a new narrative that will unveil a hidden aspect of Gennaro, the murder victim. These narratives will be shown as extended flashbacks. The structure is Rashomon-like, but instead of seeing the same event over and over again, we learn new aspects of one character. (John Sayles’ Lone Star may be a more apt comparison.). At the beginning of the script, Enea is eager to accept a job in the beautiful countryside. At the end of the story, he will be happy to leave behind the rotten village by the lake for the comparatively safe moral grounds of Milan.

What intrigued me most as a screenwriter about adapting this novel was to find the right perspective from which to tell the story. In the book, almost every chapter is told from another perspective, which may work well as a literary device, but is difficult to work into a filmic narrative. I wanted to closely follow Enea as he is going about his detective work. However, I also wanted to avoid lengthy interrogation scenes. In previous screenplays, I had never used a flashback structure. But with this adaptation, it seemed to be a fun and appropriate way to show action instead of dialogue. We, as an audience, will see the flashbacks as imagined by Enea, slowly piecing together the crime and its circumstances.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive." (Sir Walter Scott)
Lars Hubrich

Scriptwriter, Film Director