Award-winning films have it tough, in one sense at least. An average viewer is more than likely going to have set expectations about a film purely because of its critical reception. Clearly, it can be tough for a film to fulfil perhaps unreasonable expectations. Grand Prix winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Gomorrah, while wonderfully thought provoking, suffers a little from this double edged sword of high praise.
Gomorrah is based on a non-fiction book which presents a realistic account of a society governed by the Italian Mafia. The film maintains the provocative nature of the book throughout, giving the audience interlinking accounts of individuals dealing with this oppression. This ranges from, among others, a boy aspiring to join the Mafia, two naïve teenagers who think they can outwit them and a man who is forced to work within the system, having no other choice.
The film gives an unbiased account of the daily violence on the streets of Naples, presenting a society that is rarely captured on film without the Hollywood sheen.
The actual deterioration of the society is shown from a human point of view. Each account gives a new insight into how the problem affects aspects of everyday life and shows how the system is so corrupt that is almost impossible for the protagonists to detach themselves from the situation. Murders have become a daily occurrence and are seen as the way of life. The film takes the serious nature of life in these areas and builds a convincing and persuasive narrative without making it melodramatic.
Gomorrah is both riveting and disturbing in its overall depiction of this Italian society, but while each story is hugely engaging there is no chance to become emotionally attached to any one specific character.
Perhaps it tries to show too much in too little time as the viewer comes away with a sense of incoherence.
Each story would make an interesting film in its own right but the audience is overloaded with characters, plots and sub-plots, often wondering who is on which side and why they killed who they did. While this ambiguity can be seen as an added layer of meaning it in fact adds slight confusion to the overall experience.
Yet Gomorrah strives towards what cinema should be. It presents a world that most people know little about and asks us to question how we view it. As a narrative it may seem slightly muddled, sacrificing the impact that it may have made had it stuck to a single story rather than attempting to tell so many at once. Even so, it is a hugely commendable film and an engrossing if terrifying look at a very foreign world.