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Buongiorno, notte (2003)

Good Morning, Night

Directed by:

Marco Bellocchio

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 102 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: Italy

Rome, early 1978. An estate agent shows Chiara (Maya Sansa) and Ernesto (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) round a large apartment, suggesting that the second bedroom could in time be useful “for the baby” – but the two are not in fact married, and they are expecting an altogether different kind of arrival. Joined by Primo (Giovanni Calcagno) and their leader Mariano (Luigi Lo Cascio), the conspirators build a small prison concealed by a bookcase – and it is soon filled by Aldo Moro (Roberto Herlitzka), brought into the house in a crate. Over the next 55 days, Chiara sees more and more of the politician, both through the spyhole to his makeshift cell, and even in her dreams – and as he argues politics with a masked Mariano, and writes letters to his family, his former colleagues, and to Pope Paolo, Chiara finds herself conflicted between her ideology and her compassion.

In 'Good Morning, Night', renowned director (and one-time committed communist) Marco Bellocchio revisits the kidnapping, and subsequent murder, of Italy's Christian Democrat President by the left-winged extremist Red Brigades, basing both Chiara, and much of the dialogue, on Anna Laura Braghetti (who served 22 years for her part in the crime) and her published memoir 'Il prigionero'. Unlike other films on the subject like 'The Moro Affair' (1986) and 'Piazza of the Five Moons' (2003), Bellocchio eschews action or political intrigue, instead showing the events from the limited (if not exactly blinkered) perspective of a female accomplice whose involvement in the affair was restricted to keeping house for the three male kidnappers. Sticking largely to the claustrophobic confines of a suburban apartment, Bellocchio condenses a national tragedy into an intense domestic drama, and uses the image of a household in disarray to suggest the widening cracks of a country at odds with itself.

The outcome of the plot is a matter of historical fact, so that from the start the film has a hopelessly fatalistic trajectory – but Bellocchio is at pains to explore the counterfactual possibilities of different endings. Chiara dreams of Moro walking freely round the house, and even of helping him escape – while by coincidence Enzo (Paolo Briguglia), an idealistic friend from the library where Chiara works, has written a screenplay (named 'Good Morning, Night' after the Emily Dickinson novel) in which a woman like Chiara, revolted by the actions of her Red Brigade comrades, betrays them to the police. It is not, Bellocchio suggests, that such alternative scenarios to Moro's death were unimaginable, but rather that the ideologies of both the Red Brigades and of the uncompromising State were so entrenched that they had become spent forces, no longer having any room for imagination, or any power to dream. The Red Brigades in particular, though born out of the Partisan resistance movement of the Second World War, have merged in Chiara's anxious mind with the Fascist executioners that they once opposed.

'Good Morning, Night' is an unusually probing glimpse into the mindset of terrorists, examining the strange combination of desperation, entrapment and irrationality by which they are motivated, while treating them entirely seriously as human beings. Sansa's dreamy performance as the compromised Chiara is note perfect, while Herlitzka gives Moro a quiet dignity that haunts the apartment, and the film, like a ghost. At a time when the label 'terrorist' is used by politicians to shut down all further negotiation or debate, this film points to the tragic consequences of intransigence.

It's Got: Fine performances, psychological tension, haunting dream sequences, and absolutely no over-the-top melodrama (something of a miracle given the Italian domestic setting).

It Needs: To be less uncompromising (I mean the characters rather than the film).

DVD Extras Enhanced for widescreen TVs; Italian language with (optional) English subtitles; choice of Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1; Same Rage, Same Spring (65min, English subtitles) documentary on the film, comprising behind-the-scenes footage, extensive interviews with director Marco Bellocchio about his filmography and politics, background material on the Moro affair, and interviews with several former members of the Red Brigades (including a chillingly unremorseful Mario Moretti, on whom Mariano is based) as well as actors Luigi Lo Cascio (Mariano) and Roberto Herlitzka (Moro); biography and filmography of Bellocchio; theatrical trailer. Version reviewed: Good Morning, Night [2003] Artificial Eye DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Alternatives:

Piazza of the Five Moons, The Edukators, The Moro Affair

Summary

Bleak dramatisation of a period not unlike our own, when ideology was out of touch with its own dreams.

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