No, it isn’t a documentary, it would be wrong to approach this movie in that way. It’s a horror film which reminded us of John Carpenter‘s They Live. There is no analysis of “Berlusconism”, no depiction of the other half of Italy, the one that abhors the present state of things and resists in many, often inconspicuous ways. Gandini just wants to show the horror behind the glitter. He puts a typical slasher movie soundtrack on slowed-down sequences of Mediaset TV shows. The camera lingers on the premier’s face with creepy close-ups showing the cracks in his skin, the enlarged pores under the greasepaint. Gandini’s gaze pauses for many long minutes on the powerful talent scout Lele Mora‘s disquieting smile. Mora is the spitting image of the Mystery Man in David Lynch’s Lost Highway. The only difference is that Mora is fairer haired. In this sequence we get to know that Mora is a Mussolini fan and keeps pictures of swastikas and fascist hymns on his smartphone. Then there’s an alternate montage of Berlusconi scenes and moments of the everyday life of Fabrizio Corona, the sleaziest super-paparazzo in the country. It appears that they’re one another’s role model: Fabry dreams of being as mighty and successful as Silvio is, whereas Silvio dreams of being again young and handsome like Fabry.
The most appalling scene: a mass audition at a shopping mall, somewhere in the Italian wastelands, with dozens of young women showing up and humiliating themselves in ungraceful dance routines to be chosen as TV showgirls for the premier’s televisions. There’s a famous quote by T. W. Adorno which goes: “Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.” That shopping mall is a slaughterhouse. You understand that some sort of fascism has already established itself when someone looks at those auditions and says: well, what’s wrong with that?
The author’s magnifying-glass look on these aspects of Italian life is always exaggeratedly focused on the horror, and that’s the way Gandini makes his point. It is a movie about an alien invasion. We’ve been invaded by the Borg, and the Borg are no-one but us.
The only character who still maintains his humanity, whom Gandini treats with the tenderness usually reserved for naive persons, is Riccardo, a 26-year-old factory worker from Brescia. He was born in the early 1980s and grew up in a cultural desert, after the historical defeat of the Italian workers’ movement, but he keeps the traditional blue-collar work ethic. He wants to become a TV type and get famous, but he still believes that you have to work hard to get there. He is “old”, his self-discipline is painfully passé, he practices martial arts, tries acrobatic dance routines, knows his namesake Ricky Martin‘s songs by heart, shows up at any audition. He sometimes gets to go on TV shows, but only as a member of the audience in the studio. He gets no results, he’s going nowhere, because television doesn’t award merit. Riccardo is constantly overtaken by hordes of half-naked young girls with no particular skills, and has to go back to his melancholic proletarian life, in a time when that life doesn’t provide him with any kind of community (gemeinwesen) anymore.
It is Riccardo who plays Virgil for this tour of what Tobias Jones called “the Italian TV hell”. During the journey, we understand that he isn’t stupid, he’s even a sensitive guy, and some of his remarks are quite smart and straight-to-the-point. Only, he’s been left alone with his impossible dream. The Left is absent in his life (and never mentioned in the film), the unions are far away, revolution is a siderally distant dream from a very past age. He’s lonely and fucked.
Videocracy is a very partial outlook on what Italy has become in the age of Berlusconi, but it’s certainly worth seeing, although all the filmed material dates back to two years ago and many more things have happened in the meantime.
The trouble is, you get so disgusted that once you’re out of the cinema you can only think: THERE’S NO WAY OUT, THIS COUNTRY NEEDS A BLOODBATH. Which of course is not the right path to follow.