Friday, January 15, 2010

#493: Gomorrah

(Matteo Garrone, 2008)

This is a tough one, because it challenges the conventional notion of what is a successful narrative. In books, there are often multiple storylines that run parallel to each other, never intersecting but instead forming an overall picture of the story's themes and major players. This is much less frequent in film, where multiple stories inevitably have some sort of connection, be it some major event (the earthquake in Short Cuts, the frogs in Magnolia) or some tenuous relationship connection (everything in Love, Actually). Often those connections are saved for the "big reveal" at the end.

Gomorrah takes the book route, however, which makes sense considering that it is an adaptation of a book, an international sensation that mixed fiction and non-fiction to depict the Comorra crime syndicate (the author of the book is still hidden from sight due to obvious death threats). The big question is whether or not the work it takes to get into the story here is worth the anti-payoff ending, where all the narratives finish their arcs in convincing fashion, but none of them come together in any meaningful way.

And it does take a lot of work to get into Gomorrah. With a huge cast, multiple storylines, and narratives that jump in midway through (much like The Wire), it's going to be at least 30 minutes before you have a grasp on the stories. Once you do, however, the film is incredibly moving and exciting. Still, without that payoff, it feels somewhat empty, a Great movie that never happened. Gomorrah is absolutely worth watching, but only if you are willing to be frustrated a little bit by your expectations.

How about that cover too? Awesome.

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