DVD Review: 'Gommorah'

DVD Review Gommorah

gomorrah dvd cover 248.88 (photo credit: )
gomorrah dvd cover 248.88
(photo credit: )
Gomorrah (2008) Criterion Collection 137 Minutes Not rated 'Are you scared?" the gunman asks the 12-year-old boy just before his submissive yes is erased by an arresting point-blank gunshot blast to his chest. The boy wearing a bulletproof vest sheepishly pulls himself up off the ground, visibly shaken, and is congratulated by the smiling gunman who proclaims with an indifferent pride that the boy is "now a man." This is the violent initiation into the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorrah, by a .45 caliber bullet. Based on journalist's Roberto Saviano's exceptional personal account of the Camorrah, Matteo Garrone's 137-minute Italian language film is a much more condensed version of the book. Shot in the periphery of Naples, Gomorrah follows the stories of five characters and how their daily lives are intertwined through the inner workings of the Camorrah mafia. The film has an almost documentary feel, derived mostly from the authenticity of being filmed in many desolate Italian urban and rural locations. These, in turn, destroy the stereotypical veneer of Italy with every passing moment of the film. The winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes 2008 and the Best Film at the European Film Awards, Gomorrah has received a deluxe treatment from the Criterion Collection. The two-disk set is loaded with special features that aim to flesh out the mechanisms and black market nuances that drive the film. Also included in the edition is a 60-minute documentary on the making of Gomorrah, video interviews with director Garrone and actor Toni Servillo, an interview with the book's author Roberto Saviano, a short video piece featuring Servillo and actors Gianfelice Imparato and Salvatore Cantalupo, several deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer. As a companion to the film, the book is an essential read, as it illuminates some of the finer plot points that aren't always immediately clear in the movie. Many of the finite details of interaction, order and process are better understood through Saviano's tour-de-force journalism, and it cannot be stressed enough how engrossing and powerful the book is. The two together simply complement each-other and Saviano's prose provides a spectrum of emotion and clarity to an incredibly complex topic. IN COMPARISON TO the book, the film is very successful in how it visually paralyzes you with the bleak realization of how apathy, corruption and inhumanity become a widespread social consequence when drugs, power, industry and the ability to wield violence are controlled solely by a monopolistic entity like the Camorrah. It may take a second or third viewing of the film to balance and focus the plot-line, the motivations and the role of the characters within the complex and interwoven plot. The obvious mafia movie comparisons of Coppola's Godfather or Scorsese's Goodfellas cannot be made to Gomorrah. Whereas those two beautifully romanticize the mob, Gomorrah in actuality is a vision of a modern unbeatable reality that doesn't appear in either of the plot-lines of the latter two classics. In fact, Gomorrah is more like Soderbergh's Traffic, or at least a slice in the same vein as the brilliant HBO's series The Wire, where the viewer - systematically witnessing how each character plays an integral role in the structure of illegal trade - is left with the pessimistic thought that the war on drugs may very well be an unbeatable battle on our own people. Garrone's camera work has a minimalistic immediacy that builds an explosive pressure from the opening scene until the very last, although at times, following the fate of each character feels like an exercise that ultimately leads to nothing. But, once the picture and the concept are clear, the film rewards as it marinates and cooks in the mind precisely because it's the thought that comes in between viewings that gives birth to an enduringly intellectual and complex film experience. With scene after scene lingering after screening the film, the silence of closing moments feels like an absolute stomach punch of truth, with the air slowly exiting from shock and disgust. When Garrone's Gomorrah strikes, it attacks silently and quickly like a viper, spitting venom into one's eyes and soul without remorse. Gomorrah is unapologetically nihilistic and starkly violent in its depiction of the Camorrah. Underneath the grime, the film's content is an unemotional vision into the starkest depiction of hell on earth, and for that, it was the best film globally released in 2009. The film can be rented or purchased at the Third Ear.