Gomorrah People

There’s a remarkable scene in Matteo Garrone’s Italian mafia film Gomorrah, where a smooth-talking, ostensibly respectable businessman is overseeing the dumping of thousands of barrels of toxic waste in an abandoned quarry. When an accident causes his drivers to mutiny, Mr Franco (Toni Servillo) and his assistant drive into town and return, not with a doctor, but a gang of homeless kids who climb into the lorries, sit on cushions, and continue to deliver the endless barrels of poison to the pit. Covered in a thin layer of sand, the barrels will seep into the ground water, destroying the land. Later, Franco will take a basket of gnarled peaches from an elderly grandmother with a smile, then stop his car and throw them in a ditch to rot, overcome by their tainted stench.

These scenes, one arm of an astounding, multi-layered epic, reveal the intense cynicism of the Naples mafia, known as the Camorra, who illicitly dispose of northern Italy’s industrial waste in the rural south, becoming phenomenally rich in the process. But Garrone also wants to show us the limitless amount of cheap, undocumented labour available to the criminals, a deep pool of illegal immigrants and poor natives who will do anything for money and who, in some cases, see the Camorra as the only way to escape grinding poverty and social isolation.

Gomorrah isn't one of those crime operas with a cast of romantically lit, gentlemanly Don Corleones to follow. Much of the action takes place in a vast, crumbling housing estate on the outskirts of the city, a warren of apartments and catwalks where every move is watched by drug dealer’s sentries. Without explanation, we are thrown into the middle of five interconnected stories. Mr Franco is busy destroying the landscape around the city. Two Scarface-addled teenagers (Marco Macor and Ciro Petrone) decide to wage war against the local Camorra boss, a fat, ignorant boor who rules his kingdom from a tiny, steamy flat. One of his underlings is a likeable, ambitious youngster (the brilliant Salvatore Abruzzese) who delivers groceries for his mother’s shop but wants to become a proper mobster and will do anything to achieve that. At the same time, an impoverished tailor (Salvatore Cantalupo) in an illegal workshop is busy making cheap copies of designer frocks, a skill that has caught the attention of a new gang, the Chinese, who lure him away with the promise of a fortune. Finally, there’s an elderly foot-soldier (Gianfelice Imparato), a bag-man who delivers cash to mob-affiliated families, small payments rewarding loyalty or silence, but who gets caught up in a turf war between rival gangs.

Whereas Antonioni, for instance, might have spun these sprawling elements into a downtempo meditation on the parasitic effect of crime, Garrone is not interested in grand gestures or proclamations, preferring to allow the facts to speak for themselves and in the process, draft a catalogue of how all-pervasive and corrosive the Mafia influence has become. This is a chilling, brutal mosaic of cross-generational corruption, violence, greed and power, spiked with beautifully presented and astonishingly powerful set-pieces that throb with incisive anger. Shot like news reports from a war zone and hewing closely to journalist Roberto Saviano’s best-selling non fiction book, Garrone simply and efficiently details how to many Neapolitans, the underworld has become the real world.

Gomorrah, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes this year, is the finest film to arrive on our screens since January’s double whammy of No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, as dark and nihilistic as either of those masterpieces but firmly grounded in the reality of its origins. A must see.

1 comment:

red said...

definitely one of my films of he year. amazing.