The town is Volterra, a sun-dappled rustic swatch of Tuscany. The blue sky is streaked with cottony clouds, and the rolling hills, here the green of a snooker table’s felt, there the amber of a traffic light, they extend to the edge of sight, lost eventually in the shade of gnarled trees that reach and clench from the ground like arthritic hands. At the top of such a hill is Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, a real-life, once understaffed and overcrowded asylum that has fallen into disuse and disrepair. Now it lies abandoned and unoccupied, rusted over and scrawled with graffiti. But it’s once again about to open its doors to a patient.
Her name is Renee. As a young girl she was committed to the asylum shortly before World War II; as an adult she has returned to revisit the now-empty rooms, hung heavy with misery and rot. Many games have been set in asylums, and we’ve been taught what to expect from them. But The Town of Light is not really that sort of game, and so we get something different from it. The beds are still fitted with thick leather straps, and the mangled wheelchairs and gurneys still screech in the quiet, but the ghosts here don’t float along the corridors – they’re suffused into every brick, and the memories of every patient who was committed to a system that, at best, profoundly misunderstood their problems.