The Carl Online

Review of Gomorrah by tatgers
December 28, 2008, 5:30 pm
Filed under: movies


boys and toys

boys and toys

I didn’t know anything about Gomorrah when I went to it, other than it won some big big awards in Europe and that it was on the cover of the most recent issue of the BFI’s Sight and Sound publication before I left campus. Boy am I glad that’s all I knew.  Had I seen one of the trailers, some of the most shocking moments of the film would have been spoiled.  Perhaps this is a fateful nudge for me to stop breaking down trailers and their edits.


Initially, the film is disorienting.  I spent the first hour wondering who all these people are and how do they fit into the the greater picture. Hierarchy is not immediately communicated, and viewers have to categorize characters of all ages and roles as we navigate their stories. My instinct to first identify the perimeter, where the mob begins and ends in relation to the rest of society, was disappointed. Unlike the The Godfather, Sopranos, Goodfellas, or The Departed there was is no seducing of innocent outsiders.  Parents aren’t encouraging their kids stay away from the big men in dark rooms and get a decent job because, well, the legitimate jobs in the fashion industry, waste removal, and who knows what else are part of the community. The system that houses the characters is so massive it can’t be seen in relation to a “non-mob” society, but as a primer on how an entirely different community from our own (or so we believe) operates. Perhaps this is one of the most unsettling, and pertinent, issues that the film points to, seemingly shrugging: we are implicitly involved with the sins of the system that we rely on survival. Yes, the film is explicitly about a mob community, but the complacency of the characters in a violent causes me to reflect on my own complacency when I hear about the bad things I think my society is responsible for. 

Like an immersive language classroom, the rules and relations of this society’s political and financial economy are slowly rendered, and every now and then, violence suddenly punctures the flow of the film. Sometimes it strikes when suspected, but more often we are reminded violence can occur at any time—suddenly and without foreboding to let us brace ourselves. On a few occasions killers and/or their victims are offscreen, and the camera whirs to capture moments just missed.  There is a heavy use of a handheld camera effect, but more than any other film I can think of, this is often has tactile effects besides “engaging the audience”**. The camera’s perspective in Gomorrah actively hides and reveals information.  I certainly don’t know all films, but I can’t think of another that uses style to embody thematic questions of violence’s “scope” in our society.

See this if you can.  IFC is distributing so it’ll be available in theatres the same time as in other formats.

**(which is what one producer in a Q&A session for another film said the intent was.  Honestly, I think an unspoken plus it that it might save time and be easier to shoot a tight shot not using a tripod or mount all the time). In general, the most common use of handheld camera shooting is to create a sense of authentic observation.  I am thinking of when conversations are shot, it is usually a series of steady shots edited together, “popping” from one perspective to the other (shot of person A from B’s side, shot of person B from A’s side).  You see this in TV talk shows as well as in fiction. It is debatably more authentic looking when the camera pans (but not quite perfectly) between two speaking characters, as though the camera is a third person’s eyeballs looking back and forth following characters to see what reactions occur, or following a character as they actively move a room.


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