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Reality by Matteo Garrone

January 25, 2014

reality

Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a fishmonger in Naples, there is not much money to make in that line of business so he makes some extra bucks with small time scams, by chance one day Luciano – almost unwillingly, he has much more concrete matters to attend – participates to an audition to cast a new season of the TV show Big Brother, from that moment onward Luciano’s perception of reality will be obsessed by the TV show and his only goal in life will be to become a member of the ¨house¨ – the TV stage where the Big Brother show is set. I will not go further describing the plot, Reality is a great film with a huge weakness: when you talk about its plot people get the impression that this is a film about reality television, well, it’s not, Reality is so subtle as only good films can be, alas being subtle carries the drawback of being easily misunderstood.

GARRONE

Reality is a portrait of Naples’ – and at large Italy’s – many faces, the building where Luciano and his extended family live represents a good example of this multifaceted world, while the interiors show the kind of furnishings we expect to see in a modern house, the outside reveals an old and decaying palace of past beauty and riches, Garrone leaves to our imagination and/or knowledge of Italy to guess the reason why Luciano’s family lives there – are they a former noble family? are they squatters? – in a way the building is a metaphor of Italy during its never ending economic crisis; Garrone constantly blends ancient and modern elements of his country and when you talk about Italy you can never forget Catholicism, so it is no coincidence that Luciano at the height of his folly will believe that in order to obtain access to the new house he needs to dismantle the old one. An evident metaphor here is TV as God,a new reality replacing an old one though maintaining some familiar traits: just like the Catholic God, the TV sees and judges everything Luciano does, and like a modern day prophet from the Old Testament Luciano’s worth is constantly put to the test. One of the funniest parts of Reality is when the family tries to save Luciano from his TV obsession recurring to religion, but of course the allure of the new deity will prevail, in its own way Reality is a film about a conversion, this is the best film à la Ferreri since Ferreri died. Beautifully acted – everybody is great but Loredana Simioli as Luciano’s wife deserves a mention – visually stunning from the first shot to the last, the Grand Prix du Jury in Cannes was not enough, this is powerful filmmaking deserving the highest accolades and repeated viewings.

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