Thursday, April 30, 2009
Gomorra Paints a Daunting, Realistic Picture of Modern Italian Crime
When the writer of the book a film is based on needs a permanent police escort because the details he exposed were worthy of death threats, you know the film has a chance to be good. This is just what happened to Italian writer and journalist Roberto Saviano after the publishing of his bestselling book Gomorra.
Gomorra paints the stark reality of organized Italian crime in the modern era. The film tells five separate stories of different people all touched by crime in some way, shape or form. There’s a timid middleman, a 13-year-old caught up in a world of crime, a graduate who can’t live with the dirty life of crime, a tailor who takes a night job working for the Chinese competition and two young Tony Montana wannabe gangsters whose cocky attitude puts them in a bad spot.
I suppose I’ll get the negatives out of the way. Because the film features a plethora of characters across five unique and different stories, not everything is as tightly wrapped in the narrative as one would probably want it to be. A lot is left unexplained and up to the viewer’s surmise. Those who haven’t read the book or are unfamiliar with the organized crime of the Italians (which, face it, is probably all of us) might find themselves wonder what the motivation behind certain characters is for certain actions of theirs. Understanding the life these people live is quite the thinking process, and director and co-writer of the film Matteo Garrone doesn’t exactly do too much to help outsiders understand. At 135 minutes, I wouldn’t have been opposed to expanding the length of this one.
Now, with that out of the way, let the good points flow. And there are lots of them. Gomorra is choreographed to such perfection that it’s almost scary. Garrone follows with a style that feels much like a documentary all the way through the film. This releases off a feeling of legitimacy and realism to the project that would be hard to best. It would be hard to argue that another method would have worked better for Garrone than this one did.
It seems odd to mention how well a film is scripted and choreographed before other things such as the acting or cinematography, but in many ways my doing should only give strength to how good this film exactly is. The cast of Gomorra does indeed have something to do with the strengths of this film. While Garrone might be the mind behind how realistically the film plays out and how perfectly everything just happens to work out, the film wouldn’t be without its tremendous actors. I particularly was impressed by the performances of Nicola Manta as Toto, the 13-year-old delivery boy taken in by a gang and Salvatore Cantulup as Pasquale, the tailor for celebrities. This is not to slight any one of the other worthy performances, but there was something special about the way these two actors, young and old, let the emotion of their respective characters from exude their shells.
Garrone ties his perfect choreographing and great cast together in to one tremendous film with his super visionary effort. There are quite a few moments where simply the camerawork pulled off by Garrone and his team makes you stop and think about how impressive and creative the technique was. Garrone is also able to exact some of the poverty stricken urban land and bring it right to the forefront of the audience, adding to the film’s all too believable feel.
When a film overcomes a problem such as an unwound and loose narrative like Gomorra did, you have to give complete respects to everyone involved. There are certain aspects of films that keep them from becoming absolutely incoherent to the viewer. Luckily for Garrone, the lack of having one simple narrative and the challenge of trying to keep the viewer updated on five different narrative stories didn’t prove to be too much trouble for him and everyone else involved. The Godfather this ain’t. Gomorra manages to detail an uncompromising portrait of the modern organized crime in certain parts of Italy.