×

Romanzo di una strage

A studious re-creation, incorporating scenes of real power, yet the multitude of characters and cloak-and-dagger machinations are bound to confuse offshore auds.

With:
With: Valerio Mastrandrea, Pierfrancesco Favino, Michela Cescon, Laura Chiatti, Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Lo Cascio, Giorgio Colangeli, Omero Antonutti, Thomas Trabacchi, Giorgio Tirabassi, Fausto Russo Alesi, Denis Fasolo, Giorgio Marchesi, Andreapietro Anselmi, Sergio Solli, Antonio Pennarella, Stefano Scandaletti, Giacinto Ferro, Giulia Lazzarini, Benedetta Buccellato, Alessio Vitale, Bruno Torrisi, Francesco Salvi, Diego Ribon, Marco Zannoni, Fabrizio Parenti, Gianni Musy, Gianmaria Martini, Giovanni Visentin, Corrado Invernizzi, Luca Zingaretti. (Italian dialogue)

Every country has recent traumas that resist accountability. For the U.S., it’s Vietnam and Watergate; in Italy it’s the “Years of Lead” of the late 1960s and ’70s, when left and right extremists perpetrated high-profile attacks. In “Romanzo di una strage,” Marco Tullio Giordana (“The Best of Youth”) dissects one such event, the Piazza Fontana bombing, to highlight the cynical manipulations and tragic consequences of the deed and subsequent investigations. The result is a studious re-creation, incorporating scenes of real power, yet the multitude of characters and cloak-and-dagger machinations are bound to confuse offshore auds.

Similar criticism dogged last year’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” though that film’s fictional treatment of the Cold War deliberately played on the disorientation of any double-agent story. Giordana and his regular co-scripters aren’t aiming for the same kind of obfuscation, but rather rely on a thorough knowledge of the players and the cold-blooded realpolitik of the time to get across their analysis of the intrigue. The results are engrossing for the well-informed, and important for Italy, but given the local market’s unfriendly attitude toward home-grown dramas, the pic may struggle to find a wide-ranging audience even on the peninsula.

Popular on Variety

The straightforward nature of the title, which translates to “The Story of a Massacre,” reveals Giordana’s approach, eliminating any hint of melodrama in a bid to be as clear-cut as possible. It’s a difficult task when this complex world involves anarchists, communists, fascists and even the CIA, all rife with Machiavellian alliances. Providing the guiding thread is chief investigator Luigi Calabresi (Valerio Mastandrea), a Milanese cop keeping tabs on left-wing groups suspected of stirring unrest.

Autumn of 1969 was a tense time in Italy, when many feared the communists would take power, and others believed segments of the military were preparing a preventive coup, as with Greece in 1967. After a bomb goes off in a bank in Milan’s Piazza Fontana, killing 17 people, Calabresi interviews an anarchist suspect, Giuseppe Pinelli (Pierfrancesco Favino). The investigator doesn’t believe the non-violent family man is involved, but posters found nearby and the testimony of a cabbie incriminating Pinelli’s fellow anarchist Pietro Valpreda (Stefano Scandaletti) convince many, including Calabresi’s superiors.

During Pinelli’s interrogation, Calabresi steps out of the room; a moment later, Pinelli’s dead on the pavement outside. The other cops claim he jumped out the window, but Calabresi’s skeptical. Digging deeper, he discovers neofascist plots, assisted by the CIA, aimed at creating an atmosphere of terror that would discredit the left and enable a military coup. Yet those in power either refuse to see or are themselves implicated, and Calabresi is chillingly left to cope alone.

Woven throughout are major figures such as future prime minister (and kidnap-murder victim) Aldo Moro (played to eerie perfection by Fabrizio Gifuni) and President Giuseppe Saragat (Omero Antonutti). Moro in particular is treated as the embodiment of the rare just man of state, and Giordana uses him as much for his role in this investigation as for the sympathetic and tragic emotions he raises in most Italians. For those unaware of Moro’s history, however, his recurring presence may puzzle.

The helmer’s success at engaging with his nation’s past makes him a natural here, and, in contrast with his 2008 misfire “Wild Blood,” he approaches things with tamped-down passion. There are deeply moving scenes, such as when Pinelli’s widow, Licia (Michela Cescon), tells the court she’s not afraid of the truth, but Giordana avoids any grandstanding, as if the serious nature of the subject and its continued impact on Italian life demands an even-tempered recitation; no one has ever been convicted of the bombing or of Pinelli’s death. Even the way the bombing is shot, coolly and with apparently no CGI work, seems to say the explosive nature of the implications are greater than any pyrotechnic display.

Perfs are largely first-class, with Mastandrea’s air of eternal preoccupation especially well used. Great attention is paid to how the actors are lit, using shadow and stark brightness to reinforce the murkiness and uncertainty of alliances; no one is able to shine a light on the truth. A minimal use of music fits with the pic’s sense of levelheadedness resisting manipulation.

Romanzo di una strage

Italy-France

Production: A 01 Distribution release (in Italy) of a Cattleya, Rai Cinema presentation of a Cattleya, Babe Films production, in collaboration with Rai Cinema. Produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz. Co-producer, Fabio Conversi. Executive producer, Gina Gardini. Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana. Screenplay, Giordana, Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli, inspired by "Il segreto di Piazza Fontana" by Paolo Cucchiarelli.

Crew: Camera (color), Roberto Forza; editor, Francesca Calvelli; music, Franco Piersanti; production designer, Giancarlo Basili; costume designer, Francesca Livia Sartori; sound (Dolby Digital), Fulgenzio Ceccon, Paolo Segat; line producer, Matteo de Laurentiis; associate producer, Fabio Massimo Cacciatori; assistant director, Francesca Romana Polic Greco; casting, Barbara Melega. Reviewed at Cinema Quattro Fontane, Rome, March 26, 2012. Running time: 126 MIN.

With: With: Valerio Mastrandrea, Pierfrancesco Favino, Michela Cescon, Laura Chiatti, Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Lo Cascio, Giorgio Colangeli, Omero Antonutti, Thomas Trabacchi, Giorgio Tirabassi, Fausto Russo Alesi, Denis Fasolo, Giorgio Marchesi, Andreapietro Anselmi, Sergio Solli, Antonio Pennarella, Stefano Scandaletti, Giacinto Ferro, Giulia Lazzarini, Benedetta Buccellato, Alessio Vitale, Bruno Torrisi, Francesco Salvi, Diego Ribon, Marco Zannoni, Fabrizio Parenti, Gianni Musy, Gianmaria Martini, Giovanni Visentin, Corrado Invernizzi, Luca Zingaretti. (Italian dialogue)

More Film

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Popular on Variety Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content