Written for Film and TV Now Aug 2016 (Available here)
With Gomorrah’s second season finally upon us, and with the Savastano clan in disrepair, the criminal empire of Naples is changing hands and making way for new faces. We will come to know fringe characters in more depth and be introduced to the relatives and relations of those we are acquainted with already.
Expanding the universe of this Neapolitan underworld, the second series has many more female characters central to the story but don’t expect it too be any softer. “Women are portrayed just like men: brutally ruthless!” explains Cristiana Dell’Anna, one of the newer cast members who I was able to ask a few questions recently, about this series and the morally complicated character she plays in the show.
There were few female characters introduced in the first series and though most were voiceless trophies of their criminal partners, one of the most interesting breaks from stereotype was Lady Imma, the wife of Don Pietro Savastano. As captured in a decadent family oil painting, she stood beside her husband and supported him in his reign, but once imprisoned it was Genny – their spoilt and somewhat naive son – that was going to take over the clan. This was when Lady Imma started playing the game, a pretender to the throne herself she began to give orders as though from Pietro, preventing a takeover by Ciro and toughening up her son so that he was ready to fill the role of his father.
At the end of season 1 Lady Imma was killed, her death ordered by Ciro ‘The Immortal’ – whom she had always been suspicious of. Call it women’s intuition. This left a void of powerful female characters in Gomorrah, one that would soon be filled, and many times over.
When Don Salvator Conte returns to his hometown, the remaining members of the Savastano clan, the survivors, come together to form a mutually beneficial democracy: The Alliance. One such member is Scianel, sister of Zecchinetta who was the first to be killed by the alley kids, in what would be a rise of reactionary chaos. No stranger to this game, Scianel is hardened, an intimidating presence who seems to be permanently repressing rage. We will come to know Scianel through visits to her son in prison, with a reluctant daughter-in-law that she practically holds captive in a neighbouring room, as well as her frequent visits to a clothing store.
It is here that we first meet Patrizia. A clerk and personal shopper for Scianel who knows to be respectful and stay in favour. As it turns out she has her own ties to the underground – “Patrizia happens to be born in the wrong family. She is the niece of Don Pietro’s right hand, Malammore, who recruits her to work for the Savastano clan, giving her no choice” Cristiana explains. Patrizia is perhaps the closest we have to an audience surrogate, she has a life independent of the crime syndicate and she is reluctant when her uncle finds her a job as the eyes and ears for Don Pietro. As with most, money holds some allure but Patrizia’s motivation seems a little more unclear, perhaps through her connections she knows that there is no point fighting, that her fate has been decided.
Gomorrah has a whiplash inducing pace, jumping forward through time characters will change suddenly, their loyalties will shift along with their manner and demeanour. In the case of Patrizia, we are able to see a more gradual change as the dark side of the city will get it’s hooks in her and reveal what she is capable of. Cristiana continues, “She is brave and very intelligent, and will soon find out she has the skills to become a dangerous criminal, capable of scheming and ready to betray her own blood.”
One of the shows defining features is its relentless brutality. No-one is safe from the horrors of mindless violence and no time is spared to mourn. There is a moral dividing line that separates those involved from those on the outside, but this line is blurred in the case of Patrizia. I asked Cristiana if it is difficult to get into the mind of someone morally questionable – “Do you think you and I are saints? would you say you are unquestionably good? Or am I? All the time, unconditionally? Of course not!” Explaining that her process is intimately personal, and delicate, it is this grounding of the darkness in all of us that seems to come out in the complex inner-workings of Patrizia. The religious comparison is fitting, considering the ubiquity of Christianity in Naples and the hypocrisy that it is constantly highlighting.
The gritty unforgiving world of Gomorrah is based in reality, adapted from the expose of the same name and written for the screen by its author Robert Saviano. It was this renowned book that Cristiana returned to for her research but also the memories and stories that she would hear about crime in Naples when she was younger. But it still goes on today and Saviano has spent years since the books release under protection. It is this pervasive element of the crime syndicate in Naples that is captured so well in Gomorrah, the threat is so inescapable and unpredictable that the tension never lets up.
Cristiana acknowledges that the story is the most important part of the show and that the characters are servants to the narration. “The real protagonist in both seasons is ‘the system’. The cruelty of the system, how spread around the world it is. How unaware of this power we all are.” Asked about the future of Patrizia, Cristiana references this cruel and volatile system “I will be there. But you know, I could be shot in the first episode… who knows!”
The first and second season of Gomorrah are available on Blu-Ray and DVD now and plans for the third and fourth seasons have already been set in motion.