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August 30, 2005

Good Morning, Night

Buongiorno, Notte
Marco Bellochio - 2003
Artificial Eye Region 2 DVD

My original plan was to write about Good Morning, Night at the same time I wrote about Devil in the Flesh. Due to the uncertainties of the postal system, especially with Hurricane Katrina, that didn't happen. While one can appreciate either film on their individual merits, Good Morning, Night helps deepen one's understanding of the background events concerning Devil in the Flesh and the Red Brigades.

Bellochio has recreated the kidnapping of the Christian Democratic party leader Aldo Moro in 1978 by the Red Brigades. The Red Brigades were a group of left-wing terrorists that grew out of the activities in the Spring of 1968. There closest American counterpart would probably be the Weather Underground, but more disciplined. For those who may not have lived through those days, this was a time when middle class college students seriously thought they would lead a workers' revolution based on the ideals of Karl Marx. The ideas and ideals, though praiseworthy, conflicted with various realities and the complexities of politics. Moro was kidnapped based on the premise that he compromised the Italian Communist Party by forming a coalition government. The kidnappers conducted a private trial in the name of the "proletariat" that concluded with Moro's execution.

The film primarily focuses on one of the four Red Brigades members, a young woman named Chiara. Her function is to maintain the house where the three who kidnapped Moro live, to feed them and Moro, and be the conduit to the outside world. Chiara finds herself confronting the clash between the fervent belief in the Red Brigade ideals, and the reality of their activities, much like the real Red Brigade members who left following the kidnapping of Moro. A pivotal moment is when Chiara attends the memorial service for her father who died as part of the resistance fighters in World War II. Bellochio points out to the very real fight for the liberation of Italy as opposed to the more abstract notions of liberation of a different generation. Like previous Bellochio films, the Red Brigades unit stands in for the fractured family unit that is often the subject of his films, with Aldo Moro as the patriarch that the children are rebelling against.

The actors are often filmed in close-ups. Chiara, especially, is photographed in shadows, with only the upper part of her face visible. Documentary footage is integrated into the narrative, often as part of television broadcasts. Bellochio is not totally realistic with the story, allowing dream images of Moro padding quietly through the apartment while his kidnappers are asleep and even walking alone on a cold, quiet street.

The DVD comes with a documentary titled Same Rage, Same Spring. Much of the film explains the history behind the Red Brigades and the kidnapping with interviews of former Red Brigades members, as well as having Bellochio explain his motivations in making the film. The documentary also serves as an overview of Bellochio's career, with an emphasis connecting Good Morning, Night, with his first film, Fists in His Pockets. Bellochio also talks about his own family and growing up Catholic. Of particular interest is the revelation that he had a twin brother who committed suicide in 1968, giving autobiographical meaning to the film The Eyes, the Mouth. A backwards retrospective of Bellochio's feature films, each a few seconds long, is included. Bellochio is one filmmaker I care enough about to see as many of his films as possible. The recent DVD release of Devil in the Flesh, and the scheduled U.S. release of Good Morning, Night, are most welcomed.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 30, 2005 06:29 PM