Film Reviews

Gomorra Matteo Garrone

Rating - 6/10

Gomorra is undoubtedly an exceptionally brave piece of cinema. The Camorra crime organisation, which dominates Neapolitan society, didn't take too kindly to Robert Saviano's best-selling exposé of its activities – the author has been the subject of a multitude of threats and requires a permanent police escort – so it's to director Matteo Garrone's immense credit that he has brought this project to the big screen.

The film avoids a conventional narrative structure, choosing instead to let a number of bleak character studies merge together into a somewhat desolate whole. Dialogue and explanations are kept to a minimum; in the majority of instances we are left to ponder what personal urges and societal pressures led an individual to pursue a particular course of action. This, of course, isn't exactly rocket science because we've all seen plenty of films, from big-budget Hollywood productions to gritty independent efforts, that cover similar thematic territory. Garrone's film is certainly darker than most, but that's not to say anything here is particularly surprising; the concept that organised crime permeates every level of society is not a new one, after all.

The images are fittingly stark. Garrone's Italy bears no resemblance to the stunning country I visited last month; his Campanian high-rises look every bit as intimidating as, say, those in David Simon's The Wire. The only visual respite comes when two of the characters take a trip to Venice to negotiate a toxic waste disposal contract, and even that represents a fleeting glimmer of light in this 137 minute epic.

Critics of Gomorra are going to complain about a lack of narrative, where as fans are likely to argue that Garrone has created a realist masterpiece. My opinion lies somewhere between the two. Yes, I can appreciate that this grim depiction of life under the Camorra highlights just how little the organisation values human life, but there is something about the film that leaves me cold. It's beautifully photographed, the acting is stunning, and it's made me think seriously about reading Saviano's book, but did I enjoy the experience? No, not particularly. Did I learn anything I didn't know. Not really. Did it shock me? Again, and this is perhaps the most disturbing thing of all, a resounding no.