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Published June 28th 2013
Good enough for Cannes, great for you
Reality, from director Matteo Garrone, is an Italian movie based in Naples and Rome which won the Grand Prix (the jury award) at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The movie is classed as a comedy/drama, though by his own admission, Garrone admits that it ended up a little darker than anticipated.
The movie centres on Luciano (Aniello Arena) and his family consisting of his loving wife Maria, his three children and in true Italian standard a lot of aunties, uncles and cousins. Luciano is loved by his family and friends, and despite some of the shady dealings he has in place to make a little extra money, he is a charming and likeable character.
We first meet Luciano at a wedding and we also catch our first glimpse of what is to come when Luciano meets Enzo who won the last season of Italian Big Brother. Luciano later auditions for Big Brother and after a call back his obsession with being picked to go on the show begins to have some serious consequences for his life.
Garrone certainly knows how to take a picture. The movie is like a postcard for Italy, full of light and colour. The opening scene is of a beautifully adorned horse and coach which arrives at a wedding reception. The following scenes are colourful and fun and here we see Luciano as a charismatic prankster - the lovable uncle. As the movie progresses and Luciano begins to fall prey to the hype, consumerism and unfounded hysteria around reality TV, the colourful scenes give way to scenes with one colour or dull whites and blacks and finally the end shot is at night and is mostly dark.
The idea that society can so easily get caught up in the fictional world of television is not a new one, with many a story regarding the health of reality TV and the negative impact on the media on society being written about in the news. And for this purpose the movie feels quite long as it seems to make it's point quite early on. Whilst the narrative may be lacking, here's a little tidbit that may make up for you. Arena is currently an inmate in an Italian prison, serving a life sentence for the murder of three men in 1991. He was able to make the film with special permissions from the parole board. For those of you familiar with Matteo Garrone's other highly acclaimed film Gomorrah, Arena was originally meant to the play the lead hitman in that film, but the board deemed that inappropriate.
All in all, the movie is shot beautifully and even though the plot leaves a little to be desired, it is a great take on an issue that is so present in society today. Arena is fantastic actor and despite the film being darker than expected there are still funny parts and it certainly entertains. Also, everything sounds so good in Italian.