Gripping and intelligent Italian crime thriller from Francesco Munzi
Black Souls is likely to be lumped in with Gomorrah and Romanzo Criminale as the latest manifestation of Italian cinema's eternal fascination with the inner workings of the Mafia. That would be unfair to a film that offers a different perspective on the traditional gangster saga. Francesco Munzi's tightly controlled tale is much closer to Greek tragedy as it broods on the consequences of violence in communities where organised crime is a way of life and families are held to ancient codes of honour.
It is something of a cliché to say that location becomes an additional character in a film but it is especially true of Black Souls where the grey, lawless Calabria mountains are filled with a primitive sense of menace and the 'Ndrangheta have roots as old as time. There are significant scenes set in Milan but it is the rocky hilltops, crumbling villages and abandoned schools of Africo that impose themselves on the narrative and create the feeling of stepping back in time.
Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane) has left the family 'business' that still occupies his two brothers and now dedicates himself to goat farming. Son Leo (Giuseppe Fumo) sees only shame and weakness in his father's choices and cannot wait to fire a shot in anger. He soon contrives a reason to indulge his impetuosity, attracting the ire of a rival family. It is the spark that reignites a blood feud in which violence and death follow as surely as the sunrise.
Director Munzi creates a film that rewards the patient viewer, confidently allowing the pace to slow in the mountains and letting all the elements gradually slot into place. He also brings out the best in a uniformly fine cast where it is impossible to distinguish between professional and non-professional performers. The result is a measured, intelligent thriller that grows more gripping with each passing moment.
Selected release from Fri 30 Oct.