ITALY 2008  Directed by: Matteo Garrone  Book: Robert Saviano  Written by: Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni Di Gregorio, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Roberto Saviano  Produced by: Domenico Procacci  Cinematography by: Marco Onorato  Editing: Marco Spoletini Cast: Toni Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato, Maria Nazionale, Salvatore Cantalupo, Gigio Morra, Salvatore Abruzzese, Marco Macor, Ciro Petrone, Carmine Paternoster

There are not many movies with true street cred, but GOMORRAH (2008), based on Roberto Saviono’s bestseller is certainly one of them. He got as close as anyone possibly can to the Naples mafia, and he’s paying the price: hiding ever since his book got published he gave one of his occasional interviews a while ago, telling of grocery stores and many other points of daily contact that simply ask him not to show up – ever again. And reading about this and then listening to him say that despite a life in total isolation and anonymity he would do it all over again, because he hates the mafia so much, you have to acknowledge that he’s really a man on a mission.

The book being one of the best ever written on Italy’s underworld was simply destined to become a movie, and GOMORRAH has turned out to be faithful to the original and more over a great movie in its own right.

GOMORRAH has no beginning, nor an end, and it doesn’t need one: the mafia – or Camorra – has been there before GOMORRAH and will be there long after GOMORRAH. All the book and the movie can do is to define a window that provides us with a representative look at the mafia, at what it is, how it operates, how it survives and thrives.

GOMORRAH’s structure is rather loose, jumping in and out of the lives of various people who are involved with the mafia: a boy who wants to belong and enter the ranks of the organization, two teenagers who think they can get away with everything and work on their own within the mafia territory, then numerous big shots who pull the strings behind the scenes and are involved in everything from arms dealing to drugs to contract killings.

It seems relatively unimportant to me to look at GOMORRAH as a traditional work of movie making. GOMORRAH may be based on a book but is anything but by the book: GOMORRAH, that’s glimpses of violence and suffering, moments of beauty and decay, snapshots of Italian life under and over ground, feelings of embracement and detestation.

It is hard to grasp what people living with and living under the wings of the Camorra are going through. GOMORRAH makes all that a bit more transparent: how the mafia is everywhere and influences everyone’s existence, how it inflicts violence out of the blue, how it makes or breaks careers, families and the future of a whole nation, from top to bottom.

The most important insight we get is that the biggest crime the Camorra commits has nothing to do with the arms or the drugs or the murders. But it’s the way it corrupts people’s mind, their thinking, their expectations and their values. As far as the programming of people’s beliefs and values is concerned there can be little doubt that the mafia is the most influential organization besides the almighty Church.

If you’re exposed to their “teachings” you’ll end up adjusting the way you see the world to the way they see it. And they way they see it is blood-red, cold, ruthless, a world where you are either with them or against them, a world that doesn’t ask questions, but executes orders, a world in which values are long gone and have been replaced by money. Money is the new god, and everything else will be sacrificed, lives, beliefs, everything.

Since the Camorra is not simply a criminal organization, but one of the most powerful value systems imaginable, it also explains why it is one of the longest lasting organizations in the world: the mafia is like a cockroach that adapts and consumes everything in its way. And by today it has consumed most of Italy and a lot beyond, controlling local politics and legal businesses around the world alike.

GOMORRAH is a powerful movie that teaches us a lesson not in crime, but in how the world really works. That’s why it’s such an important film. But don’t expect a way out: GOMORRAH is a movie that feels just like many of those fictitious characters – and real people like Roberto Saviano – feel who were or are exposed to the Camorra: like there’s no tomorrow.


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