So quite a few people have raved to me about Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” and I must say that I was extremely excited to receive my viewing. Along with a couple of the homeboys from my film circle, we checked the film out on IFC’s OnDemand digital movie ordering service. Now I am one for foreign films but I believe it negatively affected my experience this time around.
Gomorrah centers around five separate stories involving individuals with some sort of connection to a strong mafia family under head boss, Camorra, in modern day Italy’s dirty underground. The film plays out like a Babelesque interweaving of these stories to give a clear picture of normal life in a city plagued with gangsters, drugs, toxic waste, and illegal endeavors. The issue is that the picture isn’t truly clear at all. A couple of the stories stand off on their own, never connecting to the larger picture such as that of Pasquale, the tailor taking a side hustle training Chinese workers in the art of garment making. His connection to the plot is the competition he is increasing for textile firms controlled by the Mafia boss, Camorra. Honestly, Camorra is really the only connection the individual stories have, yet he is not one of the main characters. He is rarely seen in the film, almost like a mythical character in a way. I’m not saying that device is bad but it took me some time to realize why certain stories mattered. The stories that fully dealt with the mafia was from the perspectives of Toto, an adolescent grocery deliverer turned gang affiliate, and friends Marco and Ciro, two knuckle head teens that steal weapons from Camorra’s gang and use them for their own exploits. Those two storylines are probably as simple as it gets, which isn’t quite simple at all.
The trailer for the film suggests some major violence at every turn, which is definitely not the case. The film is extremely slow. There a multitude of interesting things going on, some of which are unbelievable, but you have to stay with the story. One second of dozing and you might miss a load of much needed information. I’m not saying the film is boring, but one has to have immense patience for delayed storytelling. Everything feels natural. The film is shot all handheld and at times, takes are as long as real time action. One of my boys commented by saying he’s tired of watching the camera follow a character from behind for over ten seconds at a time. This is true. You cannot be antsy.
“Gomorrah” is also anti-climatic, meaning I felt like I was left hanging, waiting on something enormous to happen before the credits rolled but the movie just slowly ended. Little did I know, each of the storylines ended at different points of the movie, never to return that character to the screen for the remainder of the film. When the last storyline ended, that was it. I don’t want to give it away but that’s how the dice rolled on this one. That particular storyline ended without much of a bang, the end credits opened, and I looked around like there would be more, but to avail. My overall statement…go see it for yourself. If it becomes your cup of tea then enjoy that bastard until the last sip. If you end up disliking the taste on this one, at least you experienced some elements to pick up if you ever so happen decide to shoot your own film. These are words from hopefully, your favorite filmmaker or at least your favorite homeboy. May peace be with you.
Donald A.Ç. Conley