Napoli Napoli Napoli
Abel Ferrera - 2009
Raro Video BD Region A
Most of Abel Ferrera's films are about about people living in the margins of society. Even in this portrait of Naples, there is the impression that the city itself has a tenuous relationship with the rest of Italy. Ferrara skips between documentary and staged sequences. There are interviews with some inmate of a women's prison, social activists and local government officials. In between these scenes, there is the murder of a small time gangster, a dysfunctional family with an out of work father and a prostitute daughter, and a crowded cell of prisoners trying to make it through another day. Ferrera also includes older documentary footage of Naples in World War II, and city leaders in the 1960s trying to initiate improvements to the city.
The city is as much a character as any of the people who live there. The impression is that Naples is in the condition it is in due to a combination of ineffectual government, and residents forced into bad short term solutions for immediate problems. Everyone, regardless of class or profession, appears to be frustrated by the city. Like several other major cities, oversized apartment buildings were created for public housing, buildings that became instant slums. There are no jobs, no social services and no visible alternatives.
The fictional elements were written by Ferrera, along with Neapolitans Maurizio Braucci, Gaetano di Vaio, and Peppe Lanzetta, who also appears as brutal father whose favorite refrain to his family is that they should kill themselves. Ferrera's fictional family includes Anita Pallenberg as Lanzetta's wife and Ferrara collaborator Shanyn Leigh as the daughter. And while I would not dispute that there may some truth to Ferrara's view of the city and its people, I would have to think that Naples is not entirely the hell presented here. Anyone who has seen a fair sample of his other films would recognize that in the world of Abel Ferrara, the sun never shines, evil is everywhere, and everyone comes to a bad end.
I have yet to see Ferrara's film about Pier Paolo Pasolini, but there may be some similarity here. Pasolini's Rome, in his films and writings, is primarily the rougher part of the Ostia section of the city. Ferrara's Naples, likewise, ignores the tourist attractions for the inner city. There is a glimpse of optimism on the part of one of the female prisoners, looking forward to her release following time served for drug dealing. That would be the brief bit of sunshine in a vision of urban decay and hopelessness.