Everyone is GUILTY when the legitimate abuse of violence happens (esp. those on top)
Some comments in light of previous descriptions of the movie.
This movie is definitively about state violence. Even if to a viewer that has no foreknowledge of the police state that was instituted in Italy (with the help of the CIA as the movie alludes to) in order to keep the Communist Party from taking power (the PCI had the biggest following of any parties at that time), the fact remains that the movie is not much more surreal than the socio-political reality facing the film-maker.
Murders and "suicides" (while in police custody) of left-wing political activists and of anarchists are a fact that Elio Petri was painfully aware of. He made a documentary called "Streghi dello stato" "witches of the state" where Jean Maria Volonte and others expose such "suicides". Elio Petri was politically aware and through out his work there is criticism of the right wing of Italian politics (see TODO MORO).
I think that the movie is most powerful once you are aware of the fact that you can be victimized at the hands of an institution, esp. at the hands of an institution that exists only to maintain political order. Once the politicization of the priorities of those institutions that have the legitimate use of violence occurs, than meaningless violence towards the innocent will be allowed if punishing it would impair the political functions of the state machinery. Flora Balkan is perhaps a symbol for the masses, their love of violence and power, their love for the undoing of their freedoms.
A very fine movie that requires some effort, but that is always actual - thanks to an interesting narration of human nature. The movie does have it's flaws and i the action is not as invigorated as one expects it to be after the first 15 minutes, neither is the camera work at the level it has to be for this movie to be the greatest ever but it is still a hell of a great movie.
Whether or not you agree with this movie's negative portrayal of state violence and of that primal attraction that violence has (explored in a marvelously Mediterranean style in this movie) for so many could make the difference in how much you are puzzled by the movie. If you see it a a satire of power and violence - it might work.
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