Sometimes a story is so large, so dense and multifaceted that a film can’t do it justice. That’s the case with Gomorrah, it is a film which only has two hours to depict the Neopolitan organised crime family (the ‘Camorra’ what we might ordinarily know as the mafia) as documented by Roberto Saviano in his book. The criminal element of this society is so huge that to attempt to cover it in two hours doesn’t really seem to do it justice, if that phrase can be used. In a time when David Simon has made history with his depiction of drugs and crime in society with The Wire over the course of some 60 hours anything less is likely to seem superficial. That is the only real flaw with the film, there is a sense that there is so much that goes untold – so much that could be added were the story told over the course of televised series. To the credit of film-makers they have tried to do something slightly different.
Gomorrah shows the broad scope and influence of the Camorra over the social infrastructure of Napoli, from top to bottom, by weaving between five unconnected stories. It’s a brave move because with any narrative separation you run the risk of having one thread that is more interesting than another. Despite this unevenness Gomorrah is a film that grows as you watch it. The first half is relatively unengaging but as it builds a larger picture it draws you further and further into the lives of these people. Unfortunately the feeling at the conclusion is that I wanted to see something much more detailed and exploratory. That isn’t the point of Gomorrah though, it’s a picture, a slice of a society wracked by a criminal organisation. The stories are all ultimately expressions of the futility of any attempt to challenge the orthodoxy in this situation. For this reason it’s not exactly cheerful but I have no reason to doubt its authenticity given the source material. It certainly made me want to see more of this and I think an extended mini-series showing the connections between these stories would be an excellent endeavour.
As if the producers are actually listening.