The Piazza Fontana – The Italian Conspiracy Italy has always been a turbulent country politically. After all, this is the country that gave us Machiavelli wrote the textbook for manipulating power and for scheming in politics. It is also a country which has had its fair share of extra-parliamentary and street politics. All this forms the backdrop to director Marco Tullio Giordana's highly accomplished political thriller the Piazza Fontana. The film is set in the period at the very end of the 1960's. This is the time of the Marxist and anarchist revolutionary Red Brigades who are busy blowing up banks and official residences in an attempt to bring down the state. They are matched on the other end of the political spectrum by right wingers who want to resurrect the Fascism of the Mussolini era and who add to the confusion by infiltrating the left wing cells. What should be managing all this is the liberal state but it is weak in the era and it is afraid that the centre cannot hold. Giordana brings these large abstract forces into human focus by skillful use of strong central characters and by keeping the balance between action scenes (there is a brilliantly-filmed opening riot sequence) and political ruminations. We follow the lives of all the players in the situation from the trouble investigator, through the Anarchist cells and the politicians in their grand offices. Some of the parts are characters created for the drama but historical figures are also portrayed, such as Aldo Moro (Fabrizio Gifuni) who, of course, came to a sticky end at the hands of the terrorists a few years after the period covered in this film. That is one of the problems of covering real events and over such a long span. The film has to rely on lots of captions to resolve the narrative which feels unsatisfactory compared to dramatizing it. Nevertheless, this is much more than just a history lesson. It is full of well acted, tense dialogue-heavy scenes that draw us in. In that sense it has a passing resemblance to the recent Tinker Tailor Solider Spy. This film even adopts a slightly similar lighting scheme and palette, with its steely blues and greys and its claustrophobic scenes in darkened rooms. The subject matter is fascinating but even if you don't know or care about Italian politics this is a gripping and very well made film.
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