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August 4, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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Directed by Matteo Garrone

started rolling I sat in my chair in the Embassy theatre in a stunned silence. I’d just watched an amazing film, but that question nagged at me – just how amazing was it?

Gomorra details five individual plot lines, all revolving around the organized criminal Commora gang in Italy. This is not your typical Hollywood Sopranos-style romp. This is the fucking real deal.

To reveal the paths taken by each plot line would spoil the intensity and gravitas that Gomorra provides. But in saying that, knowing where characters are going and what they are doing would serve this film well. Or so I thought as I walked out of the cinema. But on the drive home I realized the brilliance of this film. It’s a true Cannes classic. Its brilliance comes not from what is said or done, but what is conspicuously absent. There’s no thematic spoon-feeding here; if you’re looking for your messages to be rammed down your throat – go watch The Dark Knight. Gomorra rises above all of that, and it doesn’t even need to try.

It’s a film that makes you think. And it makes you think hard. Characters do not explain themselves, and most plot development involves violence and murder. This is not a film for the squeamish. There’s no Tarantino gunplay afoot, it’s just plain, vicious, bullet to the head, impersonal barbarism.

Garrone has been able to portray the brutality so accurately that it becomes part of the scenery. And that’s fascinatingly horrible to watch.

But I was concerned. My annoyance came from the fact that the film is inherently fragmented. While this may have worked stylistically, it didn’t work thematically. You were not given a chance to engage properly with any characters – not as individuals, but as representations of ideas. You were only allowed to spectate. Perhaps that’s exactly what Garrone intended. But with a film that’s over two and a half hours long, your brain gets strained. And there’s so much to tire it. Concepts of machismo, boyhood bravado, naivety, poverty, comedy, beauty, skill, and chaos are all intertwined in an Italian whirlpool of violence. It therefore comes as no surprise that the title reflects this. Allusions to the destroyed biblical city of Gomorrah were not lost on me.

Gomorra is, at its heart, an intellectual film festival offering. It you think that makes it a wank-fest, then fine. But if you want to watch a piece of cinema that will keep you thinking hours after you walk out of the theatre – for good and bad reasons, then make sure you catch Gomorra.

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About the Author ()

Conrad is a very grumpy boy. When he was little he had a curl in the middle of his forehead. When he was good, he was moderately good, but when he was mean he was HORRID. He likes guns, bombs and shooting doves. He can often be found reading books about Mussolini and tank warfare. His greatest dream is to invent an eighteen foot high mechanical spider, which has an antimatter lazer attached to its back.

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