Thursday, May 07, 2009


If you write a non-fiction book and it is embraced with passion, attention and tons of publicity--then your book is likely to be a success. If you write a book about the mafia and have to go into armed protection for years--your book is likely to be a success. It just might not be the same kind of success you may have dreamed of.

Such is the case for Roberto Saviano's recent book Gomorrah, an in depth look into the Naples crime syndicate (also known as Gomorrah). The book was a sensation in Italy when published, Saviano has been in hiding ever since. Before watching Gomorrah, check your expectations and preconceived notions at the door. Don't expect a Godfather styled mob movie--Gomorrah rejects that idea on every level as it tells its gritty story about the all reaching power of crime.

The film version of the book, directed by Matteo Garrone, is as unsentimental and labyrinthine a look at the criminal world you are likely to see. There are few protagonists and people to root for in Gomorrah. This is a film of predators, of varying ages and influence, who either want in or out of the life they've chosen (or become entangled in). There is little hope for the characters. There is no romanticism. There is just the daily grind of living in Naples and the complicated connection to crime its citizens face.

The film is broken into multiple segments and bounces from character to character. They range from a young kid drawn into the organization, wannabe hoodlums who have watched Scarface too many times, an accountant who doles out weekly pay to soldiers in the family, a tailor in the black market who gets greedy, a young guy who has a new job working to secure sites for illegal dumping of hazardous waste and an assortment of tough guys on various rungs of the criminal ladder. Some characters appear more often and some disappear from the screen for long periods of time.

At first, as the stories jump from one point to another, Gomorrah is kind of hard to follow. It's complex. It's violent--the gunshots sound like cannons going off in your face. It's full of quiet despair. It's also very powerful and seeing these people wallow in the inescapable prison that is their lives is a sad thing to witness. The bare bones style of the film has a gritty, hyper-realism to it that makes the film even more haunting.

Let's be honest, Gomorrah won't make you feel good about life. You have to work for what it offers but if you are into serious, intelligent, realistic, multifaceted stories of crime or the mafia then this is for you. It's an intense, somber look at just how far reaching and destructive this particular crime syndicate in Naples is. Enter at your own peril.

No comments: