Based on Roberto Saviano’s bestselling exposé of the Camorra (the Neapolitan mafia), Gomorrah uncompromisingly depicts the interwoven lives of five residents of Naples, of varying social strata.
Whether teenage delivery boy, young upstart or clothes manufacturer, what links – and inextricably binds – these people together is the inescapable presence of the Camorra in their lives. For those born in Naples, there is no avoidance of the Camorra, and Matteo Garrone (director) conveys the true claustrophobic horror of this in Gomorrah, his sixth film.
Stylistically, the films jolts from swooning landscapes to those of uncompromising violence, from seedy interiors to relentless highways. The film is beautifully shot, yet the undercurrent of the Camorra’s violence seeps into every pore of the narrative.
Garonne makes no succession to familiar Hollywood tactics of tugging on the viewers’ heartstrings either; the unadulterated events are more than sufficient. In a cinematic age when we are used to seeing a coffin procession accompanied by swelling strings, Gomorrah’s spartan use of idiosyncratic music is refreshing, and makes the film all the more affecting.
Gomorrah won the Grand Prix at Cannes in May, and has just been chosen as Italy’s entry for the Foreign Language film Oscar. When describing the film’s style, words seem inadequate – a certain national daily newspaper termed Gomorrah ‘neo-neo-realism’ – but regardless of genre, what is undeniable and a prevalent experience of viewing it, is how very ‘real’ Gomorrah indeed seems.
The statistics that flash up on screen at the film’s close drive Garrone’s point home – in the past thirty years, 4000 people have died at the hands of the Camorra and – shockingly – have invested in the reconstruction of the twin towers.
Gomorrah is beautiful, visceral, and (if I may be so bold) a masterpiece. It is about as far removed from the trite escapism fed to us by the multiplexes as you can imagine. It is not only the people of Naples who cannot escape the terror of the Camorra, for their influence is worldwide: this is a politically important film that bears relevance to all our lives, and I urge you to see it.