MVFF35: Reality dir. Matteo Garrone

Reality is one of the most unusual films I’ve seen this year. I wanted to derive some (bourgeois) pleasure from it, but I couldn’t. And pleasure is definitely not Mr. Garrone’s intention.

In Reality, the merest possibility of starring in a major TV reality show drives Luciano (the talented Aniello Arena). As these stories go, he wants to leave his semi-provincial life for some fortune and more important, fame. He (egged on by half his acquaintances) is so convinced by his destiny and his uniqueness that he goes through ridiculous lengths to get on the show and convince the nay-sayers.

The story itself is not new. But the director takes us to new heights of discomfort and discovery in this man’s journey to the hell of unreality. He guides us so patiently and surely into this descent that Luciano’s madness is believable. I think it’s a mix of the very frank cinematography which makes use of full and close-up shots to illustrate how Luciano can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy – or precisely, that moment where reality blurs, morphs into fantasy. The cinematography is also a riot of primary colors and an almost 2D sensibility which serves to heighten that feeling of unreality that pervades even as the virtual sets upon Luciano. It is also partly the terrific acting; the characters’ complicity in Luciano’s unreality makes you both hopeful and desperate all at once.

And what an ending! It ties us back to the beginning with a simple wideshot and that same haunting melody. Whether we’re faking the past or imagining our future, none of it is real.

Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes 2012.

Reality. Dir. by Matteo Garrone. Fandango, et al., 2012. In Italian.