The crumbling of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe has provided grist for many films, and some of the best have dealt with people fleeing the former Communist states for Western European countries as illegal immigrants. Marina Spada takes on this subject in her cinematically sophisticated second feature, As the Shadow. What makes this film so distinctive is not simply its narrative about a trio of characters representing various facets of this complex issue, but also its visual style and formal properties. Spada brings a singular eye and aesthetic to her film, turning a simple story into a compelling piece of filmmaking. Claudia (Anita Kravos) is a bored and lonely young Italian who works in a travel agency. There is not much in her life - a sister and parents whom she visits on the weekends - but in her spare time she is studying Russian. She soon catches the eye of her teacher, Boris (Paolo Pierobon), a Ukranian professor of languages who has recently moved to Italy and finds himself giving language lessons to make money. Gradually, their relationship deepens until one day he comes to her with a favour: Can she put up Olga (Karolina Dafne Porcari) a cousin of his who is visiting from Ukraine? Initially skeptical, Claudia finally agrees - on the condition that it is only for a few days, as she is about to go on vacation. When the cousin arrives, she is, of course, a beautiful, willowy blonde. Is she Boris's lover, and is Claudia being led on and used? This is the beginning of a disarming and beguiling film, completely confident in the way in which it tells its story. Not least of all, the relationship between the two women takes on its own momentum, propelling the film down seductive alleys. This story must play out every day in one way or another somewhere in the world, and Spada captures the tone of these unequal relationships as power and control shifts from one person to the other. She has a natural feel for the cadences and hesitancies of her subject, as well as an unerring sense of what to include and exclude in the frame. Exquisitely shaped, As the Shadow reveals an auspicious talent at work.