Reality (Matteo Garrone, 2012): Italy

Reviewed by Rachel Morales. Viewed at AFI Fest 2012

Americans definitely understand that being famous and being talented sometimes have nothing to do with each other. After all, we made Paris Hilton a tabloid sensation and allowed reality TV to join the primetime line-up. However, as the Italian film Reality (2012) proves, being famous for being famous is apparently no longer exclusively an American phenomenon. Director Matteo Garrone scrapes off all the cheap glitter from reality TV to show the damage that can occur when a regular guy is suddenly caught up in the fame game.

Is there an exact moment when a larva becomes a butterfly, or is the process more undefined? A blurry line creates confusion, which can breed conflict. The film Reality examines the source of some of the conflicts in modern society arising from our equating celebrity with exposure. Hard work, merit, and talent are no longer the required attributes; instead, obnoxious persistence or just plain freakishness can land someone in the spotlight. As Reality depicts so well, when the boundary between private and public life becomes indistinguishable, bad things occur. Luciano is an everyday fellow who loves his family above all else. His fishmonger work is not easy, but it allows his family to live comfortably. Luciano himself is a kind and decent man with a healthy sense of humor who seems to attract people, both at work and at social events. Because of his larger-than-life personality, his family members push him to try out for the reality TV show “Big Brother,” a cultural phenomenon in Italy. Despite his initial indifference, Luciano caves to family pressure and agrees to try out. It only takes one interview and Luciano is hooked as bad as any junkie. His personal identity is being threatened by a new public persona.

The cinematography in the film reflects the film’s motif, which is the how society has blurred the line between reality and fantasy. As the film opens, the realism of the establishing shot from above is jarringly contradicted by the sight of a horse-drawn carriage below. The realness of the setting is violated by a fairytale image. As it turns out, the carriage is on its way to a lavish wedding straight out of Cinderella, where a hand-held camera is used to film the guests. Thus the editing technique is documentary-style but the subjects being filmed look like they come from another world. What really struck me was how the colors popped out. I found myself wondering if the filmmaker was embellishing to make Italy look more impressive. Is Garrone playing with my reality without my knowledge?

The show “Big Brother,” which uses “scripted reality,” perverts the truth in the same manner. What is the danger of that? As our tragic hero Luciano shows us, when he loses touch with reality, his humanity diminishes. His shallow desire for fame has crowded out the deeper feelings of love, costing him his family. When fame is based on superficiality, it is not real.














































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