Director: Francesco Munzi
Cast: Marco Leonardi, Peppino Mazzotta, Fabrizio Ferracane, Barbora Bobulova
Black Souls is a grim and despairing look at the mafia from the perspective of three brothers who— in one way or another— are still tied to the “family” business. Borrowing heavily from The Godfather (the homages to that film are obvious), visit this film nonetheless manages to craft its own cinematic identity by focusing in on three brothers and a troubled teen (a son of one of the brothers) who finds himself in the midst of a growing war.
Made in Italy, link the feature begins by introducing us to Leo(Giuseppe Fumo), sildenafil the troubled only child of Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), who chose to become a shepherd rather than a criminal. At first it seems like this is Leo’s story at play but director Francesco Munzi slowly reveals that there are bigger issues than the boy’s teenage rebellion at stake.
Leo wants to leave the calm family business of shepherding and go into the other family business: the mafia. Luigi (Marco Leonardi), Leo’s uncle, is all too eager to bring the impetuous Leo. The two, it turns out, have much in common including a desire to indulge in dangerous behavior. Luigi’s cool-headed other brother Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta) knows that Leo’s choices are disrespectful to his father but tries to keep the peace.
As the story unfolds, the film’s dark color palette implies how grim this family’s business truly is and how dangerous their lives have become. When someone in their family gets killed, the brothers are jolted out of their daily lives to confront the inarguable fact that— despite their outward appearances— they are still mobsters underneath.
When Rocco’s wife asks if “the crooks [are] coming over for dinner,” her husband cautions her never to say that. He may act like he’s not in the business but he seemingly always will be.
Munzi imbues his scenes with a coldness and a calculation that fits the story well. Despite what the brothers may prefer, they know what’s at stake when their family is at war. There’s little room for compromise and there’s few choices other than revenge. Funeral services become revenge preparations as the family looks for the perpetrators. “We’ll count them one by one to see who’s there and who’s not,” one of the brothers notes about the funeral. \n
Based on the novel by Gioacchino Criaco, the feature never steers away from mafia conventions but uses them to tell this story about an old world family tied to the traditions of the past. Leo may believe that choosing this business is a choice but in some ways, it never was. Members who were out are pulled back in and members who were in are pulled out (a theme that will clearly remind viewers of the superior Godfather films).
Despite similarities though, Black Souls stands as its own exploration of family and honor and the film’s great cinematography only hints at the darkness that is slowly consuming their very lives.
Review by: John Hanlon