versione originale italiana

Romanzo criminale

Beyond the garden: the truth of cinema
a review by Adriano Ercolani

translation by Francesca Vanini


International English title: Crime Novel, Italy, 2005
directed by Michele Placido, starring Kim Rossi Stuart, Pierfrancesco Favino, Claudio Santamaria, Stefano Accorsi, Anna Mouglalis, Jasmine Trinca, Elio Germano

The worst defect of Italian cinema? Passing over a very complex topic that needs to be faced sooner or later - the perverse mechanisms of our production - it can be found in the so called "two rooms and a kitchen syndrome", which is the incapability of going beyond the insignificant and dull story that can be told without disturbing important topics and expensive productive means. In my opinion, in the last 20 years of Italian cinema only two films have successfully crossed the threshold of our wretched bounds, thanks to their precious aesthetic quality: Like Come due coccodrilli (Like Two Crocodiles) by Giacomo Campiotti (1994) and Le conseguenze dell’amore (The Consequences of Love) by Paolo Sorrentino, of the past year. The two films owe their undoubted success to a fascinating visual framework, based on the smoothness of a personal story coherently developed.

The third feature film that rises above the wretched garden of Italian cinema is this superb Crime Novel. It achieves the same but moves from a different assumption: Placido undertakes an amazing enterprise, he uses the most well-tested means of genre cinema and plunges his film into our recent history, he uses it as mere narrative paradigm for the cinematographic product in question.
Romanzo criminale is not a historical movie, nor a work of social or political denunciation. It is a terse and violent detective story, that shakes the spectator with shootings. Based on the novel by Massimo De Cataldo, the script written by Rulli and Petraglia complies with the rules of its genre and exploit their manifold possibilities: the story of the rise and fall of the three criminals leading the ill-famed "Magliana band" has the stylistic features of the great gangster story, the characters are similar to those of American epic. Not only Italo-crime is brought into play in this feature film, but also the epochal stories of perdition by Scorsese and De Palma first of all. Since these are killers who actually existed, who were involved in the most dark pages of our recent history, everything seems more credible and more real. Romanzo criminale - consistent with what the film wants to be - does not seek the truth of real facts and their causes, it seeks the truth necessary to make the story and its protagonists as much paradigmatic as possible and therefore functional to the story. It isn't an accurate reconstruction of events, but a violent crime story and Placido prefers being faithful to his characters to the layout of the film. The direction is compact and nervous, extremely attentive to the psychologies and interpretations of the actors, the greatest asset of the film. Having to face well defined and paradigmatic "strong" roles, the most logic choice was to cast actors able to express the charisma of the characters. Kim Rossi Stuart, Pierfrancesco Favino, Claudio Santamaria and Stefano Accorsi, in the most contradictory role, give their best.

Sharp, precise, perfectly developed in accordance with some simple guiding principles, Romanzo criminale is one of the best Italian films of these years. What we approve of the film is not only its success, but the idea of the project: its attention is focused to genre cinema, it is written and realized with the clearness of one that knows his means and fully uses them. Michele Placido, much (and rightly) vituperated by us when he launched out in the marsh of existential authorship, wins back our whole admiration with this film.