Wednesday, August 11, 2010


2009, Italy, directed by Matteo Garrone

Despite the rather different subject matter - the influence of the Camorra on life in the region around Naples, versus the state of the French education system - my first reaction to Gomorra reminded me of how I felt after watching Laurent Cantet's Entre les murs. Both films work hard to present an apparently "realistic" view of their chosen subjects, through a series of interlinked anecdotes, and both raise a degree - even a strong degree - of concern in the viewer about the situations depicted onscreen. The question that lingered for me, however, was what to do with this sense of outrage, that things are broken and need to be fixed. That's perhaps a question more important for people closer to the ground; perhaps notably, when I visited Naples this year there were DVD copies of the film everywhere, including in the sheaves of pirated disks outside the central rail station.

The broader social questions aside, I found the film to be an impressive piece of work, which plunges the viewer into the world of the Camorra with no preliminaries - the relationships between the characters are barely explained, and we often don't even get the characters' names. The action changes from one aspect of the Camorra's operations to another - the blooding of new recruits, or the operation of business fronts - with no more warning, almost mid-scene on occasion. Garrone's concern is less to resolve individual plotlines, although some segments are brought to a conclusion, than to create a sense of the Camorra's pervasive impact on life in the region. There's nothing hidden about most of their work - unlike many films devoted to the underworld, Garrone shoots the vast majority of the film in broad daylight, with all of the thuggery visible in the harsh light of southern Italy.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States