Friday, February 13, 2009
A courier carrying money to the families of imprisoned gang members. A middleman and his apprentice facilitating the illegal dumping of countless tons of toxic waste. Two teenage wannabe gangsters obsessed with Scarface. An even younger boy going from observing the clans' drug trade surrounding him to a participant. A tailor making haute couture for a pittance in a blackmarket factory. All lives inextricably tied to the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia.
Gomorrrah isn't a movie that bothers to spell things out to its audience. After opening with a seemingly unrelated massacre in a solarium, it heedlessly plunges into these five story threads, and observes them with a documentarian's eye. Even when the director pulls out obvious cinematic tricks like completely killing all the sounds in a scene, it never ceases to feel authentic. Small wonder, since it's based on journalist Roberto Saviano's exposé that landed him in police protection when published, and has a completely convincing cast compromised of local amateurs. (Some of which have apparently since been arrested for their ties to the Camorra.) It's grungy, gritty and thoroughly unglamorizing of its subject matter, with violence shockingly casual and ever-threatening.
The movie gives a good sense of the poisonous web of crime and corruption that permeates everyday life in Naples, but the complete dedication to the characters' viewpoints comes at the expense of clarity with regards to the bigger picture, both within the mafia and society at large. Saviano's book, for all it's flaws and tendency to ramble, never shied away from pointing out the way the Camorra's operations fit into the greater economy. And inside the movie itself, there's a war brewing within the clans, a splinter group of malcontents causing tension and an increasing bodycount, which initially seems to come completely out of left field. That is, until you remember the massacre that kicked off the movie an hour earlier.
Still, Gomorrah is an easy recommendation to make for anyone who doesn't mind their crime movies filled with uncomfortable amounts of real life.