On my last trip to Italy, I was warned. “Watch out if you go to Naples. You could get killed there.”
I took a rain check on Napoli, and having seen Matteo Garrone’s masterpiece “Gomorrah,” I’m glad I did. Based on the book by Robert Saviano, the drama tells the awful truth about crime, and given the horrifying statistics, there is nothing thrilling about a place where criminals regard human lives as disposable chattel.
Imagine: More than 4,000 deaths resulting from gang wars, hits on innocent civilians and assassinations on officials, including law enforcement officers, who get in the criminals’ way. Reportedly, after the publication of his book, Saviano has and needs round-the-clock police protection.
DIRECTED BY Matteo Garrone
SCREENPLAY BY Roberto Saviano
STARRING Salvatore Abruzzese, Simone Sacchettino, Salvatore Ruocco, Vincenzo Fabricino, Vincenzo Altamura, Italo Renda, Gianfelice Imparato, Maria Nazionale, Salvatore Striano, Toni Servillo and Carlo Del Sorbo
RUNNING TIME 137 minutes
Why haven’t we heard more about this squalid environment or, to be more precise, why, you may ask, hasn’t the phenomenon captured our imaginations with the epic force of “The Godfather?”
For one thing, this is Naples, not Sicily, and while Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola had the artistic license to present a story of immigration in epic form, an artist telling the truth about present-day Naples does not have the luxury to romanticize a situation in which children are murdered if they know too much or fail to recognize the limits of fraternization. Literally, they can be buried in the same dump a gangster has appropriated for toxic waste.
In concept and approach, “Gomorrah” is closer to the Italian neo-realist movies of the ’40s and early ’50s. Think “Bicycle Thief” and “Umberto D.” But if the latter films are poetic and poignant, “Gomorrah” is stark and disturbing. To its credit, it possesses the relentless power to convey its narrative with unflinching candor.
We meet Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone). They want to be gangsters in the tradition of Pacino’s Scarface. And there’s another kid, Toto, played by Salvatore Abruzzese. In another parallel narrative, we encounter a tailor who makes gowns for the stars, but is in perpetual debt to the crime lords. Their syndicate is called Camorra, a harsh, poetic springboard for the film’s title, an obvious reference to the biblical city.
There are more characters, more stories in a movie that is not a documentary but rather a drama based on the truth. An interesting and revealing fact is that Italy’s Camorra has wreaked more terror than the Taliban. They are responsible for more deaths than we suffered on 9/11. Its killers are as ruthless as that of a dictator like Saddam Hussein.
Nothing to glorify
Yet, we remain oblivious to the existence of these sordid characters who play out a Third World scenario closer to our own backyard. Maybe if Naples had oil fields, we’d pay more attention.
Winner of grand prizes all over the world, “Gomorrah” is an exceptional movie. Do not expect any theme songs or colorful lines. In the real world of hoods and killers, there’s nothing to exalt or glorify.
Reach Gazette Film Critic Dan DiNicola at [email protected]
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts