r e a l i t y
22nd March 2013
6th April 2013
It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this one and in the interim I have caught a couple of the reviews out there of Reality, the new one by Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone. They’ve pretty mixed between people convinced that this is a dark biting satire on reality TV and those that think it thought about being that and then decided to take an altogether lighter note.
The plot sees likable fishmonger Luciano being bullied into a late Big Brother audition by his loving kids. The late part is significant because that’s what makes it personal for him as he has to beg an audition through a previous winner, met in passing at a recent wedding. No good deed as they say and soon Big Brother calls him for an audition and he sets about waiting for the phone to ring to call him on to the show. It’s not plot spoiler to reveal that this isn’t going to go soothly for him.
Before you know it, Luciano is a recluse, stuck in front of his TV, waiting for the call. Eventually he decides that Big Brother is in fact watching him and that he needs to change his life in order for the show to accept him. To his loving wife’s continuing angst, he sells his fish stall and starts giving away their family belongings in the increasingly desperate hope that the call will come.
Aniello Arena is superb as the initially likable but increasingly unhinged Luciano, purveying just the right amount of crazy to make us think that he has in fact become paranoid enough to believe that Big Brother’s employees are watching him for the show. Where you’ll either buy the film or raise an eyebrow is where it strongly suggests that reality TV is replacing or at least vying for space with religion in people’s lives. Near the beginning of the film we see Luciano and his friend involved in some form of complicated robot kitchen appliance scam (I’m not making this up). He doesn’t shirk from almost dragging a lady out of church in an attempt to get her to give over the money she owes. That she ultimately proves him right in his suspicions about her honesty, you quickly realise that although a caring father and family man, there is something darker brewing in him. Or maybe this is the film laying the ground for him to abandon god (and his family) for the false idol that is reality TV.
For me, the religious element was a little heavily played and arguably this whole film is probably ten years late. Do people really get obsessed with Big Brother now? It got dumped to Channel 5 which isn’t usually a sign of a flourishing show. In some ways, Reality reminds me a little of how I felt coming out of We Have a Pope. You get the impression that there is darkness there but the film tends to keep things on the light side (deliberately so in the case of We Have a Pope). Having said that, as I mentioned before, others have watched this film and read it as a very dark satire indeed. In my case, too little time is spent with the affect on Luciano’s family. They are peripheral figures for most of the movie and it would have played more seriously in my mind if we’d seen more of the direct effects of his behaviour on his marriage and children. We’re told during the film by his wife that they won’t have anything to live off if he sells his fish stall but we don’t see them struggling for money later when he’s out of work and watching TV all day.
I greatly enjoyed this film though, it’s beautifully shot and the script is witty and intelligent. The characters are all well played and show a refreshingly ‘real’ set of people. I’m just not sure which side of the dark / light satire I fall on.