We went to a screening of Gomorrah — Italian director Matteo Garrone’s new mafioso drama based on the international bestseller of the same name by Roberto Saviano — on Tuesday night, and spent the entirety of yesterday trying to figure out what to tell you about it. We didn’t enjoy it, but we’ve had a hard time figuring out why.
While it might be in part due to the fact that the two critics behind us kept whispering about how “stupid” they found certain plot twists and turns, our essential problem with the film is the fact that it at once shakes a finger at the Camorra-perpetrated violence that plagues Naples and glorifies it, simply by putting it up on the big screen (obviously, this wasn’t an issue with the book). As an audience member, you’re meant to be titillated by the beautifully-shot (courtesy of Director of Photography Marco Onorato) pile up of bodies.
Yes, the film ends with some interesting facts about Italian organized crime, but they feel awkwardly tacked on. Yes, we’ll agree with Scott Foundas of LA Weekly, who says that Gommorah “may be the most honest mob movie ever made, because it is money that links all of the movie’s characters and multiple storylines together in one infernal pact.” (He’s also freaking out that it was passed over for Best Foreign Language Film on the Oscar shortlist, but that’s a entirely different story.)
But we’d like to argue that The Sopranos didn’t make real-life gangster life look glamorous either — Tony and Carmella had a nice house, but he and his boys hung out in a seedy strip club and a meat store. Our point in invoking David Chase’s pop culture staple? We’d like to suggest that perhaps if it had launched in 2009 instead of a decade ago, it wouldn’t have been as big of a hit with the audiences of today. We don’t know about you, but we’re sick to death of gratuitous death.
We understand that both Garrone and Saviano hope to bring down real world criminal forces and violence by shedding light on the perps through their art. But in the end, something was off for us (and perhaps the Academy’s Foreign Language nominating committee), and we don’t agree with Foundas that “Garrone’s vision of mob life was simply too violently realistic and lacking in Hollywood romanticism for a group of voters who have time and again showered nominations on the glossiest of Hollywood gangster fare.”
We just didn’t feel anything after watching two and half hours of power, money and blood colliding on screen. Maybe because we’ve been brainwashed by glam flicks like The Godfather. Maybe because we read about too much death already in the New York Times. Maybe because all we can think about these days is next week’s inauguration. Maybe because it was just too much too late.
Regardless, a film that has us scratching our heads two days later? That’s a must-see, even if it’s not a must-like in our book.