Home News Ariaferma’s utopia overturns commonplaces about prison – Goffredo Fofi

Ariaferma’s utopia overturns commonplaces about prison – Goffredo Fofi

by admin

06 September 2021 3:02 pm

and if it was Ariaferma, the out-of-competition film by Leonardo Di Costanzo, the most beautiful of the Italian films in Venice? The criteria of the selection commissions and festival directors are always strange, paying particular attention to the conformity of the majorities within the category of “cinematographers”, which includes related and collateral, journalists and critics and officials and producers.

The exclusion from the competition of Ariaferma, the most “necessary” film among Italians in Venice, it can demonstrate a categorical and indeed epochal conformism that has the limit of stopping at the surface, without the will or, worse, the ability to go a little deeper, to talk about what can really count more today.



Leonardo Di Costanzo (Ischia 1958, and therefore at the height of his strength) has already given us a long documentary on the world of school – always starting from the Neapolitan area of ​​which we feel an expression, and which at the time left us perplexed by the confident and idealistic portrayal of principals and professors rather than students – and two films of great value, choral portraits (such as Ariaferma, the third) of our society today: The interval, the most convincing of the many films that have recently told the Mafia and Camorre, or rather, their culture; And L’intrusa, the most convincing film among the few who have faced the world, certainly not without ambiguity, of the so-called voluntary service.

Each time, the construction of the story, the design of the characters and their psychologies went far beyond the denunciation and knew how to become a novel. Di Costanzo is, in addition to the rest, also an excellent director of actors, as he demonstrates in this Ariaferma where he was able to keep under control, demanding from them an intimate tension, two actors of great wisdom, both coming from the theater and sometimes brought, for this very reason, to a certain externality, like Silvio Orlando and Toni Servillo (respecting the alphabetical).

Restlessness and fears
They are at the heart of an all-male group (except for a rapid initial female presence) of actors and, perhaps, not actors or actors making their film debut. Orlando’s character clearly comes from significant Camorra experiences, that of Servillo is a guard with the functions of chief. To be exact, in the film we have twelve prisoners and five guards, and the central and opposite figures are those played by Servillo and Orlando (there are other figures of “law enforcement officers” in the film, but of mere physical presence and in few scenes).

Ariaferma tells, in the closed real environment that is that of an abandoned prison, as for a few days, in the temporary absence of the director, it is up to the head of the guards to administer the daily life, who has to deal with the dissatisfaction and restlessness of the inmates, including their interns differences and tensions, and with the prejudices and fears of the guards.

For example, in prisoners, there is an irremediable hatred towards an old man who has committed those “impure acts”, with consequent crimes, which even criminal morality does not accept. And among them there is a boy who, by snatching an old man, made him fall and seriously injure him, and who is awaiting trial, a no lesser character and indeed decisive for the emotional investments that he somehow solicits . We know less than others, and much is left to our imagination.

For small touches, the prisoners and the jailers recognize and live their common human nature

The tension between “guards and thieves” hints at some change when the “head guard” Servillo, faced with the ignorance of prepackaged food brought from outside, accepts the offer of the “badly” Orlando to be his cook if they arrive from essential raw materials. In fact, he grew up in a paternal tavern, and it will be discovered that his origins are no different from those of the head of the guard, as perhaps the film should have hinted a little earlier than in a post-finale that lowers the tension of the main scene of the film, and that could have been the perfect conclusion.

Utopically socialist
In the meticulous narrative of the small contrasts and behaviors of the representatives of the two fronts (without conceding anything to so many habitual psychologisms and sociologisms, literary and journalistic and also political) it is proceeding by narrative touches without emphasis, sometimes almost unnoticeable, that the subtle tension of a story that hints at or shows differences and similarities, cultures and prejudices less distant from each other than what may seem both in group morals (in prejudices, finally) and personal, character.

The dissolution of tension will take place in the main scene of the film, when in the prison the lighting system jumps in the middle of a storm, and someone will propose that, instead of having dinner cell by cell, the tables of each cell be united in a common table. in the large, round central room onto which all the cells face, isolated by bars. This is one of the scenes destined to remain in the memory of the spectators and in the history of our cinema.

For small touches, the prisoners – with their even extreme differences – and the jailers – with their different characters and different ways of understanding their duty, or profession – recognize and live their common human nature, the need and the beauty of a dialogue, and in this beautiful scene there is a sort of religious, indeed evangelical, aura of a “Supper” not only Christian, but also, it seems to me, utopian socialist …

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Beyond the differences and injustices made or suffered, there is the recognition of a common human condition, of the common subjection to a “system”. There is something that we have rarely seen in cinema, even in the classic one (but then in directors such as Dreyer and Buñuel, Dovženko and Tarkovskij, Rossellini and Pasolini and De Seta, Mizoguchi and the Ichikawa ofBurmese harp). It is not cheap, really and it is something that goes far beyond cinema and, of course, the Venice Film Festival.

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