Marco Bellocchio emerged with the modernist Italian film makers including Antonioni, Bertolucci and Pasolini during the sixties and though their brand of iconoclasm was reacting against the establishment they could not outrightly reject neo realist tendencies. Whilst Antonioni and Pasolini are no longer with us and Bertolucci seems to have for some inexplicable reason gone into semi retirement, Bellocchio is one of the remaining directors of the original Italian art cinema movement still working steadily today. Of late, with Vincere, which I still have to watch, he has undergone somewhat of a resurgence beginning with his 2003 political drama Good morning, night.
On the morning of March 16 1978 former Italian Prime Minister and leader of the Christian Democratic Party Aldo Moro was kidnapped by members of the Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse), a hard line Marxist Leninist political organisation. In the ensuing gun battle to abduct Moro, five of his bodyguards were murdered. Moro was on his way to attend a key parliamentary meeting between members of the Italian Communist Party and the Christian Democrats so that he could help finalise the details of a collation that he referred to as the 'historic compromise'. A comprehensive manhunt took place to recover Moro and many appeals were made for his safe release. After being held captive for 54 days, on the morning of May 9 Moro was executed by his captors.
Shot in a pseudo documentary style, Bellochio’s film focuses on the relationship between members of the Red Brigade and Aldo Moro. Much of the narrative unfolds through the conflicted eyes of the female member of the group, Chiara, played by luminous Italian-Iranian actress Maya Sansa. Unlike her fellow comrades who are committed to the notion that only by executing Moro, the class enemy, can they succeed in undermining the negotiations for a new collation and prove their political sincerity, Chiara begins to seriously doubt if their actions will simply be viewed as another form of terrorism.
Bellocchio inter-cuts the sequences in the apartment with actual news footage, constructing a period in Italian history marred with political uncertainty and a catastrophic disillusionment with the values of mainstream institutions. Though Chiara finds that her ideological commitment to the Red Brigades ultimate political aim of Marxist revolution remains intact, Moro’s degree of humanism not only takes her by surprise but finds her sympathising with the view that violence and death hold no measure of constructive political validity other than shock value. In one particular instance, Bellocchio makes powerful use of the Po Valley sequence from Rosselini's Paisan (1946) to suggest Chiara's political beliefs are tied up in the memories of a cinematic ideology that stretches back to the painful sacrifices of the Italian partisans during World War II. Overall, Bellocchio's political drama is an intimate one and Moro's death is represented as both a political inevitablity and an empty revolutionary claim for Marxist ideals.