Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy
SUZANNAH BENTLEY continues her Lavazza Italian Film Festival report, this time taking a look at a period thriller.
Based on the real-life events surrounding the 1969 bombing of a bank in Milan, Piazza Fontana explores the lead-up to the explosion and its subsequent investigation.
From the 1960s until the 1980s, Italy experienced social and political turmoil that is now referred to as the ‘Years of Lead’. Numerous political factions—official and unofficial—battled for power through corruption, espionage, and acts of terrorism. These opposing factions included communists, anarchists, fascists, neo-Nazis, the police force, the military, and the elected government.
Despite a promising premise, Piazza Fontana misses its opportunity to be an engaging thriller. To put it simply, it’s impossible to follow. The key problem is the film’s overly ambitious scope. The ‘Years of Lead’ is an extremely complex and convoluted topic and to untangle its elaborate intricacies in such a way that the audience understands within a two-hour film just isn’t feasible. Perhaps if the filmmakers had narrowed the film’s focus more specifically to the bombing itself, Piazza Fontana would hit the mark. Although it is difficult to portray a historical event without providing some socio-political context, Piazza Fontana aims for accuracy and comprehensiveness at its own expense.
With dozens of characters, some who look very similar, settings that are hard to differentiate between, and lighting that often obscures detail, Piazza Fontana has the audience struggling to keep up. Numerous intersecting plotlines and indistinguishable roles take focus from the central storyline and key characters, leaving the audience confused and unable to engage. Although there are brief moments of narrative tension, these are lost through ill-timed scene cuts and plotline changes. Of the numerous characters, only the two central figures are developed enough to inspire sympathy.
Piazza Fontana does have some positive elements: there are some strong performances from the cast — notably Valerio Mastandrea and Pierfrancesco Favino as the two leads. The visual representation of the time and place is evocative, and is enhanced by crisp and ominously toned photography. Unfortunately these elements are not enough to carry the attempt at thoroughly capturing such a broad subject matter. This misguided ambition results in excessive exposition that alienates the audience and detracts from the plot.
Despite a premise with the potential to inspire a gripping and informative political thriller, Piazza Fontana’s flawed narrative and scope render it confusing and ultimately unaffecting.
The Lavazza Italian Film Festival runs from 3 to 21 October at Palace Centro and Palace Barracks cinemas. http://www.italianfilmfestival.com.au
SUZANNAH BENTLEY is a Brisbane-based writer, editor, and all-round word nerd. She has a Master’s degree in Writing, Editing, & Publishing, and a penchant for horror films and sparkly things.