“Gomorra”, a 2008 Italian export that earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, has made its way across the ocean to North America and is certain to set a modern day benchmark for all mafia films to come. This will happen for two reasons. The first is the provocative and shockingly stark portrayal of today’s mob. The second is the gritty reality that director Matteo Garrone infuses into every single scene in his seamless film. Combining such desolate reality in the script with such intense imagery makes for a visceral experience unlike any mafia film I’ve seen before. It all felt so real, so believable and that was made the experience so effective. The reality that Garrone gives us, based on Roberto Saviano’s intensely controversial novel, is so bleak that its hard to imagine anything good in the world after seeing it.
“Gomorra” tells the story of the Camorra, a group supposedly responsible for the murders of 4000 people in the last thirty years of its existence. Those 4000 people were all individuals at one point and the exposing the plight of the individual within the huddled masses is one of Garrone’s strongest suits. “Gomorra” focuses on five separate stories to make its point. Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) makes sure the family members of imprisoned members of his clan are financially taken care of until it becomes uncertain who is in charge. Toto (Salvatore Abruzzese) is thirteen and thinks he’s ready for the man’s world. Marco and Ciro (Marco Macor and Ciro Petrone) prove Toto wrong as they are slightly older, want to run their own racket but only prove to be a nuisance. Roberto (Carmine Patemoster) graduates from University and tries the mob on as his first real job. And finally, Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupe) tries to make a little on the side after the mob has taken care of him for years. Though they never connect, they are all under the same gun.
The title itself condemns Naples and its inhabitants as doomed to their inevitable fate of self-destruction, “Gomorra” being that infamous sister city of Sodom. Garrone isn’t kidding either. At no point does it seem like there is any way for the people who call this mess their home to rise above their own situations. Yet, at no point in time does Garrone imply that the mob actually knows what they’re doing either. Perhaps then, it is the mafia that will one day self-destruct. And if that glorious day ever comes, hopefully Garrone will be around to take the inherent rawness of the collapse and turn into as brave a film as this one.
Review by Joseph Bélanger