Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

A Cinematic Anti-Monument against Mafia Violence: P. Diliberto's la Mafia Uccide Solo D'estate

Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

A Cinematic Anti-Monument against Mafia Violence: P. Diliberto's la Mafia Uccide Solo D'estate

Article excerpt


1969. A couple is making love under the sheets. The movie cuts to a computer-generated image showing a group of spermatozoa racing through the fallopian tube. Their trip is juxtaposed to one of a car full of armed men speeding through a tunnel. A voice-over comments on the caustic parallelism with the following words: "E cosi mentre gli spermatozoi di mio padre correvano verso la meta, gli uomini di Toto Riina uscivano dall'ultima galleria per arrivare a Palermo." The tragedy announced unfolds. The men reach viale Lazio, enter the apartment immediately below the couple's love nest in search of their enemies, and kill them in a bloody shootout. The movie cuts again to the spermatozoa, which, scared by the noise, flee in fear away from the ovum. Behind them, a slower, clumsier spermatozoon, unaware of all that has occurred, finally reaches his goal and fecundates the egg. The movie's protagonist Arturo recognizes himself in that union, and utters: "Se Toto Riina non avesse organizzato la cosiddetta strage di viale Lazio, io non sarei mai stato concepito."

Such is the powerful narrative incipit of La mafia uccide solo d'estate (The Mafia Kills Only in Summer), Pierfrancesco Diliberto's debut movie of 2013. (1) The movie offers right from the beginning a discourse that satirically explores the relationship between the Mafia and its effects on the citizens' political, experiential and, indeed, biological "being-in-the-world." It systematically investigates the possibility of both societal and individual defenses in relation to the Mafia phenomenon and the violence it produces. In spite of its being substantially a historical fiction--or a docudrama, since all of the historical facts shown in the movie are accurate--the movie presents not only a novel, biological reading of the Mafia problematique, but moreover serves as an antimonument that provokes an ethical reaction to national historical memory and stimulates the viewers' emancipatory potential for the present.

In order to demonstrate the above thesis, I will organize the analysis in four sections. After introducing the reader to the movie's peculiar satirical tone and autobiographical component, my analysis shows how a biological analogy is foundational to its thematization of the Mafia phenomenon. I then discuss the movie's documentaristic dimension and the palingenetic value it attributes to the blood of those who sacrificed themselves in the fight against the Mafia. In the last part, I trace how monuments and memorial plaques of anti-Mafia heroes act as open sources of such palingenetic value, and argue that by performatively and interactively prompting its viewers to take a first-person stance against Mafia culture, the movie in its totality should be read as an anti-monument.

1. An Idiosyncratic and Innovative Approach to the Mafia

The movie tells the life story of Arturo, a boy particularly sensitive to the presence of the Mafia, in Palermo from 1969 to 1992, the year in which both Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were killed. The protagonist's love story with a girl named Flora is the main narrative thread employed to foreground the pervasive climate of violence, danger, and death that constantly defines and shapes both Arturo's life and that of the Palermitan people. The various stages of Arturo's courtship of Flora, spanning from elementary school to adulthood, serve to highlight different dramatic moments of Palermitan Mafia history. Throughout the movie, many different historical personalities cross paths with the lives of the two protagonists, such as Boris Giuliano, General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, and Toto Riina. The continuous interweaving of Arturo's life with the Mafia reveals the movie's central core of reflection, namely the societal effects of what Jane and Peter Schneider fittingly define as Mafia's "cultural production of violence" (81).

It is important here to note that Diliberto's personal life experience as a Palermitan directly informs La mafia uccide, a fact that establishes a close correlation between the body of Arturo and the one of Diliberto himself, the voice-over narrator, protagonist, writer, and director of the cinematic project. …

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