If Italian director Matteo Garrone is running from the Mob, he’s not showing it.
His new film, Gomorrah, has already seen the original writer go into police protection in Italy. The lack of bulletproof glass in the windows of the hotel room Garrone is sitting in can’t be considered encouraging either.
Although, with the film garnering critical acclaim around the world (it won the Grand Prix at Cannes and screened at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival), perhaps he just wants to relish the moment a bit.
Based on a famous investigative book about the Camorra organized crime syndicate from Naples by journalist and writer Roberto Saviano, Garrone’s film reveals the inner workings of the infamous cartel, rumoured to be considerably larger than the Sicilian mafia. Garrone was drawn to the chance to strip away the stereotypes and present a gritty, unembellished story about a real-life mob.
“With Saviano’s book, there was the possibility to tell a story about the Camorra from inside,” Garrone said. He says turning the book into a movie was an easy choice because Saviano’s writing style was already so visual.
“Whenever I decide to make a movie, it’s always because I have a figurative idea of what I’m going to do. In the book, there were so many images that shocked me and I’m a visual director, I come from painting — that’s where I feel comfortable,” Garrone said.
Every image in Gomorrah bears the mark of Garrone’s careful choreographing — from the claustrophobic, prison-like concrete slums that serve as a metaphor for one young character trapped in a choice of either joining the gang or becoming one of its victims, to the wide open spaces two reckless wannabe-gangster teens are always seen inhabiting.
Above all though, Garrone wanted to steer clear of the tropes of the mob-movie genre and avoid the glamorization that tends to come with the territory. In Gomorrahh, the criminal culprits don’t cruise the countryside in fancy cars — they cling perilously to survival in near-poverty.
“I’ve seen a lot of masterpieces about the Mafia, but always glamourized. In this case it was interesting to show how the reality is different from the fiction,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell a story about who is bad or who is good, but rather look at that grey zone in between where all is confused, both bad and good.”
So far, Garrone hasn’t had to endure police exile like Saviano, though he doesn’t want to jinx anything.
“No threats. Not yet, but you never know.”