Review: On My Skin
by Camillo De Marco
- VENICE 2018: A film by Alessio Cremonini about Stefano Cucchi's death in prison in 2009 opens the Orizzonti section
The shocking photos of Stefano Cucchi's autopsy – a man who died in October 2009 at the hands of the state – have stirred the consciences of many Italians and entered a horrific world that includes countless stories of injustice. Almost ten years later and after his sister, Ilaria’s long battle for the truth, few people know how events really unfolded. Alessio Cremonini decided to bring Stefano’s story to life in On My Skin [+see also:
film profile], the opening film in the Orizzonti section at Venice Film Festival 2018. Produced by Cinemaundici and Lucky Red, the film will be released on Netflix and in Italian cinemas on 12 September.
It felt natural for the filmmakers to give the role of the young man who ended up in prison for possessing 20 grams of hashish to Alessandro Borghi. The chameleon-like actor known for his role in Suburra [+see also:
interview: Stefano Sollima
film profile] seems to bring Stefano back from the dead in a thorough performance that does justice to a screenplay (written by the director and Lisa Nur Sultan) that meticulously follows the agonising final days of a thirty-one-year-old man from Rome who was beaten to death.
It all starts on the night of 15 October 2009, when Stefano is "caught" by a police patrol in his car with a friend. They find 20 grams of hashish divided into 12 and two grams of cocaine. Cucchi is not a criminal, he is a young accountant who helps his father in the office and comes from a past of heroin addiction, during which he spent time at various rehab institutions and communities. Now he's almost back on the straight and narrow, but his uncooperative attitude during the police search leads to his arrest, before being beaten savagely in a cell.
Cremonini chooses to begin his cinematographic interpretation of events like a Christian Way of the Cross in his second feature film following the low budget film Border. Passing from one police station to another – just like the stations travelled by Jesus to the cross – and from one hospital to another, to a court cell and back to hospital, in general indifference, Stefano experiences a painful journey that ends in his death. The X-ray machine examination celebrates his crucifixion, while the final journey to the morgue made by his parents Rita and Giovanni (Max Tortora, Milvia Marigliano) and his sister (Jasmine Trinca) represents a sort of Caravaggesque deposition. We’ve seen something very similar in the agony experienced by Bobby Sands, played by Michael Fassbender in Hunger [+see also:
interview: Laura Hastings-Smith Robi…
interview: Steve McQueen
film profile] by Steve McQueen.
There is no freedom, wrote Cesare Beccaria at the end of 1700s, whenever laws allow man to cease being a person and start becoming an object. On My Skin demonstrates how our consciences are asleep. After a beating that leaves evident marks on his face and back, Stefano Cucchi comes into contact with dozens of doctors, nurses, guards, policemen, prison assistants, a judge and a lawyer. Even those who seem to pity the skinny and helpless man turn their heads the other way. And later, after his death, come the lies, misdirection, and all-too-convenient truth. Stefano has become an "object," no longer a human being entrusted to the responsibility of state institutions. Just like the other 175 prisoners who died in custody during that same year in Italy.
(Translated from Italian)
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