‘Gomorra’: Shakespeare, cocaine and bullets in the alleys of Naples | TV

When Roberto Saviano (Naples, 42 years old) published his novel Gomorrah in 2006 I had no idea what those pages were going to unleash. He never imagined, at the age of 26, that the book that radiographed the customs, misdeeds and economic system of the main clans of the Neapolitan camorra would lead to a death sentence from the Casaleses clan and a life in forced exile that he still suffers . Nor could he see coming then that it would sell three million copies, would be translated in 40 countries and would become the basis of a fabulous film by Matteo Garrone and a series that would religiously accompany the cathodic customs of the Italians for eight long years. Gomorrah It ends now after five seasons and endless controversies and passions. But its cultural and social impact has been enormous, making it one of the most influential fiction television products of the 21st century in Italy.

Gomorrah It has been for Italians something like The Sopranos In U.S.A. The story of a family that commanded drug trafficking with an iron fist from the Secondigliano neighborhood, in the north of Naples, and whose disagreements caused a sort of Big Bang criminal who marked the entire city with fire and lead. A kind of King Lear —References to Shakespeare’s plays are recurrent, with more or less finesse– from the row that starts with the fearsome Pietro Savastano, old emperor of the mafia organization, inspired by the historical Paolo Di Lauro, and ends with his son Gennaro (the same name as the city’s patron and interpreted by Salvatore Esposito inspired by Cosimo Di Lauro) solving his fratricidal conflicts with his soul friend, Ciro di Mazio (Marco D’Amore). This is the epilogue and the fifth season of a story that, behind so many layers and convoluted twists, of thousands of deaths, portrays the love story with a club between two friends, orphans of parents in one way or another, that took until the end as brothers.

Salvatore Esposito, right, like Genaro and his disputes with his soulmate, Ciro di Mazio (played by Marco D'Amore), mark the future of the series.
Salvatore Esposito, right, like Genaro and his disputes with his soulmate, Ciro di Mazio (played by Marco D’Amore), mark the future of the series.

The series (Sky original and produced by Cattleya) also had a certain documentary value and has configured a more or less free tour of almost all the criminal stories of the last 30 years in the city. From the time of Cuttolo to the so-called Secessionists, who sowed Naples with corpses. There were almost all its protagonists. The Giuliano, who commanded in Forcella and celebrated with Maradona before being devoured and resurrected by a group of lads; the Nuvoletta —in the series turned into the ruthless Levante family—, or the group of teenagers in the center of Naples, inspired in some way by the revolt of the clan of Emanuele Sibillo, a 17-year-old boy who led one of the largest criminal and juvenile revolutions that Naples has experienced in recent decades.

Money and cliches

Gomorrah He also traveled and established connections with Central America or with Spain. In fact, in the first season the character Salvatore Conte is inspired by the bloodthirsty Raffaelle Amato, also known as O’Spagnuolo, after having spent half his life in the Iberian Peninsula after being Paolo di Lauro’s hitman and controlling traffic of cocaine from Galicia to Italy. “Gomorrah It not only talks about Scampia, but about the periphery of all the great metropolises, such as Paris, Manila, Cairo or Mexico City ”, Saviano said in the presentation of the last season.

Naples, it is true, was not exactly the city that the series portrayed Gomorrah. Not even the neighborhood of Secondigliano or Scampia, a concrete monster turned into the epicenter of cocaine trafficking in the northern periphery, was not even crudely so. At some point the cliché was also abused. And part of the city rebelled and attacked the series (there were threats to the film crew, bribery attempts, banners against Saviano) until many, as always happens, saw economic benefits in it. In many cases, brawler clans and apprentices may have had little to do with those portrayed in the first season of the series. However, little by little the police, magistrates and sociologists became aware of the reciprocal contagion that arose between the street and the screen. Today, eight years later, it is difficult to distinguish aesthetics from reality from what fiction built by taking a walk through some of the neighborhoods in the center of the city such as Forcella, Sanità or Quartieri Spagnoli, where so many have copied hairstyles and clothing from a series that was born inspired by them.

Gomorrah It was from the first season, perhaps the most crude and documentary, a hybrid of reality and fiction that also needed to avoid legal conflicts and lengthen the plots with characters who gave more of themselves than their inspirers. But there were essential aspects to make it work. All the dialogues of the five seasons are built in a deep Neapolitan. So much so that Italians from the rest of the country had to get used to seeing a new subtitled chapter every week in order to understand it. The phenomenon had enormous cultural value and has also made known to the whole world a lush and popular language, often treated with contempt, which constitutes a fabulous cultural wealth for one of the poorest regions of Italy.

The most extreme Naples constantly appears in 'Gomorrah', which has not been able to avoid falling into certain clichés.
The most extreme Naples constantly appears in ‘Gomorrah’, which has not been able to avoid falling into certain clichés.

Complicated balances

The risk of GomorrahHowever, like all narrative products related to the mafia, it was always to mythologize the way of life of its characters. That is why all the plots also included a fragile balance between good and evil and the need that the heroes never survive their own criminal work. The series, where the police are almost an element out of the field, has left little room for redemptions or beatifications of its characters. Nor to high feelings or compassion between them. “Trust is a luxury that we cannot afford,” says the protagonist in a certain passage from the last season, when the total war between clans has already begun. Only the last part becomes that duel of emotions between the two protagonists, at times almost homoerotic (Rolling Stone portrayed them on her November cover kissing on the mouth), with which Gomorrah it transcends the original work of Saviano.

Changes have also taken place in the bill of the series or in the type of interpretation, which has never lowered the level despite the linguistic requirement that the majority of the cast be of Neapolitan origin. Claudio Cupellini, director of the last season – along with Marco D’Amore, who also plays Ciro Di Marzio – have raised the quality one more notch. The music of Mokadelic, those whistles from the roofs of the buildings where drugs were sold, the classic cry of Guagliu ‘(something like uncle in nao dozens of hits Neomelodic Neapolitan music) or a whole string of themes from trap They have also contributed to creating an atmosphere that will be forever recognizable.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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