Hostage to Misfortune

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Review of 'Good Morning, Night', director Marco Bellochio

A film about the kidnapping of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978 sounded promising. Perhaps it would explore the politics of the kidnappers, the Red Brigades, or the possible complicity of the Italian state in Moro's assassination.

No such luck. Instead a horrid film that could easily have been produced by Washington to justify its 'war on terror'.

The film opens with three male Red Brigaders bringing the abducted Moro to a suburban house where their female comrade is waiting. The kidnappers then sit down on a comfy sofa to watch the news, expecting to see the workers - sorry, the proletariat - rise up in support of the abduction. Quite why they think the workers should rise up is not explained, but the kidnappers are mystified that they don't. (In reality, some workers did rise up, but they were Fiat workers who went on strike against Moro's abduction - which perhaps offers the best clue as to the effectiveness or otherwise of acts of terrorism in mobilising people against state power).

The ridiculous sofa scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. The 55 days of the kidnapping are shown through the eyes of the female kidnapper, a sultry beauty named Chiara. She takes on the housewife role (how original), cleaning the home and even folding Moro's socks so beautifully that he guesses there is a woman among the kidnappers.

Predictably, she has doubts about the impending assassination of Moro (as does one of the men).

The message is entirely clear. Chiara, like the rest of us, has a simple choice between extremism (represented by bloodthirsty men whose motivation is apparently driven by a single slogan, 'The proletariat must rule'), and moderation (represented by the decent and dignified Aldo Moro).

No mention is made of the corruption of the Italian state, including the Christian Democratic Party of which Moro was president, which had alienated and angered so many young people in Italy in the 1970s.

Nor is much said about the political background to the kidnapping. Moro had just helped to establish a government involving the support of the Italian Communist Party. Even the limited involvement of the by now benign Communist Party was enough to piss off the Italian secret services, the right wing of the Christian Democratic Party and the CIA. This reaction perhaps explains why the state ignored and then suppressed publication of Moro's begging letters, and adds weight to the growing evidence that the lead kidnapper (who shot Moro) was an Italian secret service agent.

Moro's killing unleashed a 'war against terrorism' that gave employers in Italy a green light to go on the offensive and effectively killed off the radical movement that had erupted in Italy in 1969.

The director, Marco Bellochio, was part of that radical movement. He therefore should know that any film that tackles the issue of 'terrorism' without context or polemic or subtlety will end up as a reactionary tract, as well as poor art.