The latest adventure from Italian brothers Marco and Antonio Manetti is an exploration of the power of love to sway even the hardest of hearts – but also a vibrant homage to Italy's southern city Naples.
“Naples is depicted in the news, in films, books and on TV, as an ugly city gripped by crime,” Antonio told AFPTV. “But just taking a stroll through the streets of the centre shows you the city is not that”.
The coastal city at the foot of Mount Vesuvius is the heartland of the ruthless Camorra organized crime group, which was immortalized in the 2008 bestselling book “Gomorrah” by Roberto Saviano and in a popular spin-off television series.
“Lately there has been what I call the 'Gomorrah' effect, in which Naples is portrayed as a dark place. Yes, there's the Camorra, but it's also a city that can make you smile,” Marco said.
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The plot opens with the funeral of boss Don Vincenzo (Carlo Buccirosso) – nicknamed the “King of Fish” – whose grieving, bejewelled widow Donna Maria (Claudia Gerini) appears to just be holding it together.
To the outside world, the boss is “sleeping with the fishes” after being bumped off in a basin of mussels.
But all is not as it seems. A nurse (Serena Rossi) spots Don Vincenzo alive, and the family rushes to silence her.
Will hired gun Ciro (Giampaolo Morelli) pull the trigger once he realizes the nurse is an old flame?
'Italian capital of culture'
“Love is the motor behind everything that happens,” Gerini said. “Donna Maria comes up with this plan to pretend her husband has died so they can leave and start a fresh life together” beyond the mafia.
“There is crime, but it's also a story about a Naples made of feelings, of families, of colours,” she said.
The film, competing for the prized Golden Lion under its Italian title “Ammore e malavita,” may hope to defend Naples but it also revels in laughing at Neapolitans – who are all too quick to cash in on the mafia cliche.
“We joke that while in Paris the symbolic site is the Eiffel Tower, in Rome the Colosseum, in China the Great Wall, in Naples, it's the Sails of Scampia,” a vast, crime-plagued tower block, Antonio said.
“Instead of complaining, the Neapolitans turn it into a business, inventing a tour for American sightseers.
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“And we had fun leaving the pickpocketing of one of the tourists a mystery: was it real or was it organized by the tour operator to make the experience even more 'authentic' for the Americans?” he said.
The brothers acknowledge that while Gomorrah cast the city in a certain light, the film and TV series “also did it good, bringing it attention from outside”.
And it is a city they strongly believe deserves to be known for beyond the shootouts: Forget Rome or Milan, “Naples is the Italian capital of culture, it is up there along with New York, Paris, London,” Antonio said.
By Giovanni Grezzi with Ella Ide in Rome