Gomorrah is an Italian film by Matteo Garrone, that deals with the life of those either directly associated with or tangentially involved with the Camorra, or the Italian organized crime unit. This film is actually five different stories all melded together, though I had no idea of knowing this and went into the film expecting a singular story and spent literally half the time flailing wildly to keep my head above the water. One of the purposes of my doing this blog is to aid those who have not seen the films on this list by getting them properly prepared for the experience, either by setting up the story in the proper mindset or frame, or by explaining my personal experience with the film so that others may have a barometer as to what to expect going into it. Gomorrah is a prime example of why I am doing this the way I am doing this; it’s a good film, but it suffers dramatically by its decisions to not open up the story to those outside the target demographic. In layman’s terms, unless you go into this perfectly knowing what you’re going to get and what’s to happen, you’ll be so confused you’ll want to turn it off before you get halfway through.
This film makes the uncommon but still reprehensible mistake of simply dropping us into the setting, with no guidelines or direction signs, and expects us to automatically know everything from the get-go. No storylines are started; we instead merely drop in on them already happening. No characters are introduced; we just cut onto them doing their business. I’ve encountered this before in films from the list, but I can’t name any of them off the top of my head, and maybe that’s why; the films never have any impact on me enough to really register in my memory, because I have no idea who these people are, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, or, most importantly, why I should care. This film is literally as if they made a film about the entire lifespan of Italian crime, and the finished product is only just over two hours in the middle somewhere. We’re not getting the most important part of the story, the part that gets us involved initially so we have an invested interest in what happens next: context. Maybe this is context-free because the context is already known to anyone born and living in Italy, and since I am not of that mold, I can only glance in confused as the subtext flies right through my head as if it were transparent. If that’s the case, then this is just an unfortunate circumstance of cultural divide, and something pretty much unavoidable unless I literally studied up on Italian history before embarking on this film, and doing so to such lengths just to be able to properly watch a film isn’t my idea of entertainment.
I went into this knowing nothing, and once again, I should have done my research beforehand; I lasted about halfway through the film until I finally just gave up and went to the Wikipedia article so I could finally have a handle on what was going on. Once I did, though, and I started the film back up again, it became exponentially more enjoyable; I was careful to only check up on what I had already seen, so that the film could still surprise me, and really the revelation that it was five separate stories all rolled into one helped massively with my understanding of the plot. Still, I can’t let go the fact that I had to reach outside the running time of the film itself to understand what was happening; that is inexcusable to me, and is a signal that the film has failed in imparting its message or primary facet of entertainment. To put it plainly, I enjoyed the film a lot more when I knew what was going on, but I was still forced to acknowledge that the film had initially failed in my eyes. This was probably one of the hardest films on the list for me so far to try and attach a rating onto, since I could pretty much divide the film in half and point to each half as a completely separate viewing experience. With that in mind, I decided to end up right in the middle, and I think I was even a little extra nice in doing so. Tread carefully should you attempt this film; this one, more than any other I’ve reviewed so far, carries the disclaimer to not go into it completely blind, or you might as well be blind, since half the film will go by and you’ll realize you haven’t actually seen a thing.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10