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2010 | 2004 | 2003

1 item from 2003

Good Morning, Night

22 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »


Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO -- In "Good Morning, Night" (Buongiorno, Notte), Marco Bellocchio dramatizes one of the most traumatic events in recent Italian history -- the kidnapping and murder of its former prime minister, Aldo Moro, by a Red Brigade faction in 1978. The writer-director's inquiry into this tragedy makes for a moving and intelligent film, but the dark story never feels fully realized. Bellocchio experiments with a number of fictional methods to penetrate the minds of his characters, but not all work -- and some add confusion rather than clarity.

Nevertheless, this film will be a must-see in its native land, while festival exposure here and in Venice should lead to theatrical releases in many international territories. The film is certainly one of the better attempts by a European filmmaker to grapple with the terrorist activity that plagued Western Europe in the '70s.

The film's early moments depict two of the kidnappers, Ernesto Pier Giorgio Bellocchio, the director's son) and Chiara (Maya Sansa), posing as a married couple to rent a large Roman apartment with an underground garage. Here they plan to sequester their victim. Under the leadership of Mariano Luigi Lo Cascio), Primo (Giovanni Calcagno) and the other two design and construct a hiding place behind a bookshelf wall.

The bloody shootout and kidnapping in broad daylight occur off camera. Chiara learns about it from a TV news bulletin, which alerts her to her colleagues' success and to the imminent arrival of a houseguest.

Moro (Roberto Herlitzka) languishes in the flat for 55 days. During this time, his kidnappers conduct fruitless negotiations with authorities. Moro even writes to the pope to gain concessions that would win his release.

While all of this is happening, Bellocchio imagines conversations between Moro and his communist kidnappers, chiefly their ideologue leader Mariano, a dialogue in which the two parties talk past each other. The story is told from the point of view of Chiara, the cell's only woman. Her doubts about the group's action grow with each passing day. She experiences flashbacks (in black-and-white) to the struggle against fascism during World War II, which lead her to wonder whether her colleagues' radical ideology is uncomfortably akin to the fascists'.

At her job in a library, she develops a relationship with a young man (Paolo Briguglia) who just happens to have written a screenplay about a similar terrorist kidnapping. What Bellocchio wants to achieve here is never clear, nor is the police arrest of her colleague ever explained.

Having trouble sleeping at night, Chiara experiences dreams when she does fall asleep in which Moro roams freely about the apartment, checking out books in the bookshelf, and later, a fantasy in which she frees him before her pals can kill him.

As the film moves back and forth between these hallucinations and the tense boredom of the waiting period, during which the cell's members start to suspect one another, the movie loses some of its grip on the audience. Bellocchio's impressionistic approach never quite jells with the more realistic account of the terrorists' methodology. One also wishes that at least one terrorist would offer a cogent rationale for their actions. Indeed, only Chiara seems able to question their motives and goals.

A movie about the Moro incident should be unsettling, and this one is. The failure of ideology to justify such a crime is clearly dramatized by Bellocchio. The actors convey the blindness of much of the European radical left of that era to the consequences of such acts. In the way Bellocchio lights and shoots the claustrophobic flat, he makes clear that everyone is a prisoner there, not just Moro.


A Filmalbatos/RAI Cinema production in association with Sky


Screenwriter-director: Marco Bellocchio

Producer: Marco Bellochio, Sergio Pelone

Director of photography: Pasquale Mari

Production designer: Marco Dentici

Music: Riccardo Giagni

Costume designer: Sergio Ballo

Editor: Francesca Calvelli


Chiara: Maya Sansa

Mariano: Luigi Lo Cascio

Aldo Moro: Roberto Herlitzka

Enzo: Paolo Briguglia

Ernesto: Pier Giorgio Bellocchio

Primo: Giovanni Calcagno

Running time -- 108 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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