An unconscious astronaut is dragged from the capsule in which he has travelled to the moon by his companion and left stranded there as the capsule takes off and disappears into the inky blackness of space as it returns to Planet Earth. The astronaut awakens, realises he has been abandoned and begins to panic - and then Alice Cespi (Florinda Bolkan) wakes up. This dream about the moon has been a recurring one ever since childhood but recently it has been cropping up in her sleep with increasing regularity; she thinks it is from a film she saw when she was a little girl, yet what if it were an actual representation of a real event? What if someone is performing terrible experiments on astronauts?
Well, don't concentrate too hard on that concept, because you're not going to receive much of an explanation one way or another in this deeply enigmatic thriller, of a sort, that has often been labelled a giallo. Yet Footprints, or Le orme as it was originally known, does not fit exactly into that form either: there's only one murder in the film, assuming that the dying astronaut really is a dream, and that is shot with such lack of flair that it's not presented as a typical giallo setpiece. Far from it, as most of this involves a baffled Bolkan wandering around a picturesque Italian tourist trap during the off season and attempting to make sense of where her last three days went.
Alice doesn't start off in Garma, she starts off in the big city where she works as a translator, but she turns up for work one day and is called into her boss's office for a dressing down. It appears that she has been missing for the past three days after walking out of a session without explanation - get used to that lack of explanation, folks - and so, not knowing if she still has a job after such behaviour, Alice takes a few days to gather her thoughts, finding she is strangely drawn to this resort. Once she reaches there, she accepts a lift from a local man (Peter McEnery) to her hotel, hearing along the way how he is doing up a house nearby.
Which explains how he injured himself doing the carpentry - or does it? Hereafter, the film meanders around in a daze, as if someone landed the writers, directors and stars a blow to the head and they are staggering about trying to come to their senses so they can complete the movie. Alice meets a selection of people, all of whom claim to have met her before, except that the person they describe had longer hair, and was a lot less amiable, at least according to the little girl Paola (Nicoletta Elmi) that she spends most of her time trying to get information out of. Yet the further Alice is confounded, the less amiable she becomes, suggesting that she is either turning into this person, Nicole, or she was her all along without realising.
There's a caption at the end of this film which apparently gives an abrupt explanation, that the heroine was insane, essentially, that makes only glancing reference to what we have seen. It is possible that we are seeing the world twisted through the eyes of a lunatic, but that seems far less sympathetic to Alice than the rest of the film is, and reduces the power of its most potent sequences to basic, "it was all a dream" kinds of business. For some, Footprints will prove too tedious a journey to take without getting any bearings, as long stretches simply have Bolkan walking, walking and talking while getting precisely nowhere, yet at other times it has visuals of bizarre vividness. The whole idea of being left behind on the moon has a dread quality (knowing that the man instigating this is Klaus Kinski is no less disturbing), and the ending is difficult to top for seventies strangeness, but few would say this wasn't frustrating. Music by Nicola Piovani.