November’s film was the critically acclaimed Italian mafia flick, Gomorrah (2008) directed by Matteo Garrone. Adapting the international bestselling book of the same name, Garrone brings the harrowing narratives onto the silver screen in a very naturalistic filmmaking style making it one of the most exciting films of 2008.
Having also read the book, I can confirm that the film has very faithfully adapted the source material. I was most impressed by the very naturalistic dialogue of the film and, of course, the filmmaking style of it (which I’ll get to later). Apparently, Garrone reworked most of the script during production with his actors, asking them to work off of what was actually written. Essentially, the script was mostly just a blueprint to which to adlib off of. Instead of focusing on one story, Garrone chose to explore several elements of the Camorra, like in the book. Normally, I hate multiple plot structured films but this is a rare case in which it works wonders. Each story is unique in its perspective of power “the system” (as they refer to themselves as) has over it’s environment, whether that may be international fashion brands or local wannabe thugs.
However, Gomorrah really shines in its technique and style. Reminiscent of the Dardenne brothers, Garrone holds shots for extended am0unts of time and shoots mainly in close ups for an intimate, real-time feel, frequently discarding the 180 degree rule. Music is never used for melodramatic effect, on the contrary, it is all diegetic and often ironic. Roberto Saviano wrote in a chapter of his book, “I wanted to know what trawler background music was. I was expecting rap, acid rock, heavy metal, but instead it was an endless round of Neapolitan neo-melodic music and pop. In America, killers pump themselves up on rap, but in Secondigliano they go off to kill with love songs in their ears.” As we see in the film, the gangsters are always bumping pop music and contrast the violence that takes place.
The camera in Gomorrah hardly every racks, rather the subjects comes closer into focus or they just stay blurry the whole time. In this particular scene, a power dynamic is established. The camera is static and we see the boss in the foreground in complete control with the two wannabes in the background out of focus, or visually insignificant. They are also smaller in relation to the boss.
With Pasquale, his shots often give off a sense of nervousness and instability. Even in this static shot, the subject in the background approaches Pasquale getting more and more in focus as we see Pasquale almost trying to avoid him. In a different shot of him in the Chinese factory, there is another handheld shot from behind Pasquale that never racks doing the behind-the-head-close-up that the Dardenne brothers frequently use.
Gomorrah plays on its themes similar to the way it uses its music. The Camorra is like the elephant in the room… with a gun. Everybody knows about it but nobody can do anything about it. It’s like living a life without having one at all; an endless cycle of irony and death: The scene when Franco (Toni Servillo) is making deals with a dying landowner who, even on his deathbed, only talks about money, or the scene with Marco and Ciro aka “Sweet Pea” (Carmine Paternoster and Ciro Petrone) who are in briefs firing automatic weapons, or when Toto has to turn in Maria after a sessionist drive-by and being abandoned by his best friend. My favorite scene, however, is the final shot of the film where the two corpses are hauled onto a bulldozer and lifted into the air as if to show the world, knowing nobody can do anything about it.
These are just my thoughts on the film. I would love to hear what you thought. Did you think it was a great film? Why or why not? Regardless, hopefully you at least learned something from it! Let me know what you think!