Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Night of Rome, Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo,

The Night of Rome is a sequel to Suburra, the recent novel about politics, corruption, and gangsters in Italy'scapital city (both novels, Suburra and The Night of Rome, are tangential to the movie Suburra and the TV series of the same name, and more about that in a minute). In The Night of Rome, some of the characters from the previous story are now in the background (most notably the gangster behind most of the action, Samurai, is now in jail), and others are now struggling with one another and with a new mayor over control of the infrastructure projects aligned with a jubilee year announced by Pope Francis.

The machinations of Sebastiano and Chiara, the gangster at the center of what's happening (as long as his mentor, Saurai, is still in jail) and the leftist politician on the rise in local politics are a fascinating dance of violence, fading ideologies, sexual attraction, and old and new alliances. There is indeed violence, and the novel begins with a particularly vivid assault on an innocent employee of the intended recipient of the message behind the attack). Once beyond this stomach-churning passage, most of the novel keeps the violence at arms length, or at least in a less vivid register.

The Night of Rome corresponds, roughly, to the time frame of the 2nd season of the Suburra TV series (available on Netflix with subtitles), but the story is completely different, an alternate  reality with some characters overlapping both. The Suburra film is also an overlapping reality, but ends in a way that would prevent a film of The Night of Rome being possible without, again, changing almost everything. This Italian practice, transforming a novel into a filmic equivalent and then transforming it again in a multi-episode TV format, is both interesting, providing insight into the process of reimagining a story several times, and frustrating (keeping up with the characters from one story to another, one sequel to another, can be confusing). But The Night of Rome on its own is a powerful vision of a recent, almost contemporary Rome in which tensions of politics, organized crime, and organized religion is powerful and fascinating.