Sunday, 9 October 2011

Review - Gomorrah (2008 - Dir. Matteo Garrone)

At the end of evlkeith's ground breaking Gritty Checklist, he left us with the question 'What is the grittiest film of all time?' Well Gomarrah has got to be a contender.

Set in and around Naples and based on a whole range of organised crime activities in southern Italy, the film takes the form of five individual stories all intertwined in a veritable festival of grit. Move down the Gritty Checklist and Gomorrah has all the bases covered and it even adds some nice original touches of it's own. Not only do we have children with guns, (teenagers in this case,) but they also fire rocket launchers and undertake the whole shooting scene in just their underpants! Add to this a chemical waste element, lots of dispassionate executioner style killings, tons of urban wasteland locations, prostitutes, drugs, jerky handheld camera action and a whole host of sweaty, nervous looking characters and you get the idea.

It's hard to say whether the acting in Gomorrah is any good as the whole cast seem not to be acting. They appear to have taken the whole documentary style of proceedings to heart and seem really natural, but in a way that rarely happens in reality TV documentaries. I'm not sure whether this is a positive feature but it definitely added to the realism of the film and provided a disturbing edge. The lack of any positive emotion shown by any of the characters is a little unnerving too.

The problem is, it's just not enjoyable in the least. Where City of God has a real sense of optimism and positivity mixed in with the horrors of urban 'ghetto' life, Gomorrah has no elements of hope, redemption or conscience. I'm guessing that's why they called it 'Gomorrah' (look it up bible fans) and if that's what the director was attempting to create, then it's a job well done. However, you are left with a bleak emptiness and a feeling that the characters dislike themselves almost as much as we do. If you're feeling a bit down and want a 'pick me up' film, then this is definitely not going to help.

On the upside, I still think films can go even grittier. Gomorrah sets a high standard but there's still room for manoeuvre. Why not set a film in Rotherham, the spiritual homeland of grit? Perhaps shoot the whole thing on old 'Flip' video cameras? Combine other genres with a bit of grittiness: see my upcoming review of A Prophet for some gritty/prison crossover action!
9.5/10 for Grittiness
5/10 for the whole film

If you like this you could also try:
City of God, The Edge of Heaven, Amores Perros.

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