Review: Il buco in testa
- Through the story of a victim of terrorism, Antonio Capuano establishes a link between the political violence of the 1970s and the strain infecting society today
We’re in the Years of Lead in Italy, on 12 May 1977, when seventeen-year-old Giorgiana Masi is killed during a peaceful demonstration by radicals in Rome. Two days later, in Milan, the Movement organises a peaceful anti-government protest. At the top of via De Amicis, however, a group breaks away from the main body of the march and starts setting fire to cars. Next, twenty-one-year-old Mario Ferrandi pulls out a 7.65mm pistol and shoots in the direction of the police. Vice Deputy Sargent Antonio Custrà falls to the ground, hit in the forehead by a bullet. The son of farming folk who was born in Avellino, Custrà is barely twenty-five. He is recently married, and his wife is expecting a daughter he will never know. Ferrandi is arrested in London in 1981; he co-operates with the courts and is handed a sentence. He has now paid his debt to society. Ten years ago, Custrà’s daughter decided she wanted to meet Ferrandi. They visited via De Amicis together, standing beneath the plaque which commemorates her father’s death. Screening Out of Competition at the Torino Film Festival, Antonio Capuano’s Il buco in testa explores this meeting and the consequences of Custrà’s murder from Antonia’s perspective, embarking upon a “loose interpretation of real events”.
Played with great intensity by Teresa Saponangelo (the protagonist of Paolo Sorrentino’s upcoming film E’ stata la mano di Dio), the daughter’s name in this instance is Maria, while her counterpart is called Guido, into whose uncomfortable shoes Tommaso Ragno steps. In reality, the Milan-based encounter between the two of them is the shortest part of the film, diluted, as it is, over the full duration of the film and interspersed with scenes from Maria’s day-to-day life in Torre del Greco (a district on the outskirts of Naples). Hers is a hollow life, spent hating the man who stole her father away from her before she even set foot in the world. Maria looks directly into the camera and introduces herself, before explaining what her days involve: staying at home with her mum (Vincenza Modica) who’s been destroyed by grief to the point she’s now incapable of speech; endlessly hunting for a stable job; working in the technical institute as an (unpaid) assistant to a professor who teaches kids how to work with natural materials, such as coral; in the consulting room of her psychologist, to whom she reveals her nightmares, fears and uncertainties; by the sea, where she finds a few moments of peace… But whilst Maria might struggle to feel emotions, she doesn’t have the same problems expressing her sensuality: to her friend Fabio (Francesco Di Leva, potentially the best in a new generation of Neapolitan actors), she describes herself as solid as a plant, “except I don’t produce flowers or foliage”. Perhaps something is brewing between our protagonist and Fabio, behind the tough approach she takes towards her friend who teaches drama to kids hailing from peripheral neighbourhoods controlled by the Camorra, and who’s also involved with a community centre which fights on behalf of immigrants and factory workers.
Capuano films Il buco in testa with the usual agonising attention he pays to life in the Italian South, revealing all the colours and shades of his unwaning social engagement. In an epilogue which leaves no room for optimism, Capuano establishes a link between the political violence of the Left, in the 1970s, against “enemies of the people” and the violence infecting the social fabric of modern-day life, which is blighted by wrongdoing and by mafiosi groups, and against which countless people rise up and, occasionally, react.
(Translated from Italian)
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