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Silvio forever, or: the Italian black hole

19 April 2011
Published in Politics, Primo Piano
by Filippo Spreafico

Very few movies deserved the attention of the Italian audience-electorate once the topic dealt with the ‘one and many’ Silvio Berlusconi. I am not blaming Sabina Guzzanti’s Dracula and Erik Gandini’s Videocracy (both 2009) to have lacked accuracy or mislead the audience. I do blame them of having offered Italians a reality-to-go by holding the audience hand to hand towards the “communist” (in Silvio’s words) conclusion. That the trailer for the movie “Silvio Forever” was ’simply’ severely cut from more than 30 seconds to a mere 15 seconds (without footage and in the form of televisual disruption) should come unnoticed by now, viagra as it seems clearer that Italy is sinking down the Freedom of the Press Index (50th in the world in 2010, and see Reporters Without Borders). It should come with no surprise too that the movie screening provoked a sort of unpleasant feeling in my two friends’ stomach and heavy headache to the subscriber, surely not because of the movie’s revelatory character. This film is not one which would make Italians raise up and … switch off their televisions, the only thing left to be done in the present Italian days. The movie is a true rationale of the whys and hows of Berlusconi’s rise through the deployment of the theatrical metaphor, but it comes about as truly annoying and coming at a moment when even satire, self-satire and sharp journalistic research seem powerless.

Italy is at a bad turn not because of Berlusconi’s resilience, not for the predicted immigration waves, not for youth unemployment, not for the cuts in jobs and the fall of the small enterprise and not even for the crunching grips of austere economic reforms. Italy is like a patient in depression, looking at himself in the mirror and understanding of being depressed, but unable to think in any other terms than depression. The Italian problem is a problem of imagination. It is a problem of lack of alternative imagination. The imagination of the ideals, of ethics and values, usually triggered by both Realpolitik and theater plays, have all been eaten up by a reinforcing black hole where Berlusconi and his pro and contra commentators have collided. The game is no more Berlusconi’s or the magistrates’. The game is this sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, where critiques are self-evident and foster the things they critique. The lack of imagination has produced a Berlusca-centric system that reduced Italy to a thing and a measure of itself, at this stage devoid of a guide.

Silvio Forever comes about in these uni-versal days. An intelligent movie, a sharp, well-informed, poignant, revelatory and (un)surprisingly wit collage of footage and declarations. A movie that would shake a foreigner more than an Italian. As in any addiction, excess of consumption decreases the effect of every amount: an evening in the cinema to watch Berlusconi’s shows simply reinforces uni-directionality. In actual facts, this movie should be destined to a foreign audience, where alternative imaginations could make a cult out of this deeply enmeshed in the Italian-style, but incredibly actual and pan-communicative film.

Silvio Forever is the story of the effects of power and transgression, from the moment the man believes to be the creator, to the moment the man has to blindly obey to his creation. It is a universal parable, telling the story of a country internationally considered a-normal on daily basis, a story that surely will provoke a deep sense of resentment in any one caring about Italy. Also, it is story that speaks the words of truth, a truth contained in the Pandora’s box of liberal theory, which can paradoxically become an instrument of invisible censorship, of self-destructive implosion, of obliteration of democracy through democracy.

Gian Antonio Stella and Sergio Rizzo, together with Roberto Faenza, acted somehow predictably, as they produced a movie not able to increase the audience already conquered with the books “La Casta” and “La Deriva”, and that slice of population barricaded behind the parallel reality of investigative journalism, the magistrate’s justice and deep “anti-berlusconismo”. Similarly, the three acted very unpredictably too, fact epitomised by the Left’s caustic reactions to the movie. What was different? The movie’s sobriety and ambiguous nature are of rarely paralleled manufacture in Italian docudrama: Silvio Forever could have easily been about a distant autocrat, both in time and space.

In addition to that, the editing of the movie was about one possible alternative for Italy: the lack of an orienting voice, if we consider Silvio’s voice as ‘within’ the narrative and not as the ‘narrating voice’. The movie has met unconscious, deep audience’s dissatisfaction by the fact that there is no clear moral, as the stark contrast between Rosa Bossi Berlusconi’s (Silvio’s mother) declarations and their dismissal by the unfolding of history, or the juxtaposition of a 1910s betrayal of Caesar movie and the fairy-tale like tone of the ending song are elements framing the nebulous state of the Italian real. The movie’s cynical, witty and ambiguous alternative style smells of the unknown Italy, of a country brave enough to completely dismiss itself and build a new cosmos: possibly, it smells of the non-televised alternative country. Silvio Forever deserves to be the last act of a play where all Italians are unconsciously playing, as it feels like that not only there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but that the tunnel is not even felt. Nevertheless, the few subjects still gravitating around the imaginative black hole are wondering how to escape the aggrandising magnetism. And they also feel that they cannot do it through neither the large or the small screen.

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