GOMORRA (Matteo Garrone, 2008)

The Camorra is an actual criminal mob whose base of operations is Naples, Italy. Matteo Garrone’s sober, unblinking, coolly observant Gomorra is pulsatingly contemporary, riveting, unsentimental and, cumulatively, massively moving. It is based on the 2006 book by 26-year-old journalist Roberto Saviano; since its publication Saviano has needed constant police protection. We learn at film’s end that the Camorra, a money-making colossus, has invested in the rebuilding of New York’s World Trade Center.
     The film juggles five plot-lines, two of which remain unresolved, the others testifying to gangland’s decisive spirit of retribution. In the latter group is a haunting, powerful plot-line revolving around 13-year-old Totò, a grocery store delivery boy whose acceptance into the Camorra leads to disaster: first, one-time playmate Simone’s becoming his “enemy” after Simone joins a rival gang; secondly, after a street killing, his reluctant set-up of Maria, his customer and Simone’s mother, for a response-kill. Yet even here there’s a loose end: Totò’s immediate group has acted thusly without official instruction.
     The Camorra “manages” industrial toxic waste by illegally dumping it. Franco, the gang’s agent, bullies educated Roberto, his increasingly distressed young apprentice. When some of the waste spills on one of the transportation crew, Franco refuses to call an ambulance and the men in turn refuse to work. Franco exits the scene, leaving Roberto in charge; when he returns, he brings with him the new crew: children. Roberto’s conscience churns.
     Whereas Totò turns in to the gang drugs and gun dropped by dealers in a police pursuit, two reckless older teenagers horde a stash of arms and are dealt a death sentence.
     Garrone’s camera moves deliberately, often very briefly. No violence titillates here; it is all dreadful.
     Grand Prix, Cannes; best film, director, script, European Film Awards, David di Donatello Awards.

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