GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA  directed by Annalisa Piras (UK / Italy, 2012)

This documentary film ,co-written and narrated by ex-editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott, looks at Italy as an open wound in the heart of Europe.

As with Emmott’s book (Good Italy, Bad Italy) it examines the nation’s virtues and vices, borrowing the image of the country as a metaphorical girlfriend from the song by The Smiths and quoting liberally from Dante’s Divine Comedy.

In my view, it spends too long looking at the background to the crisis and too little on proposing a way out of the mess. The strongest messages rightly assert that ,if change is going to come, it is going to be the result of the more active role of women and a more enlightened attitude from the new generation.

Lorella Zanardo, who made the film Il Corpo Delle Donne, is therefore right to target her message at schools since the older generation already seem like a lost cause. This is also why it is less important to hear what Umberto Eco and Nanni Moretti think and more crucial to find out what the younger generation have to say.

Bill Emmott – looks like Lenin, walks like an assassin

One of the biggest problems for me was that I actually dislike  Bill Emmott. I found him an intrusive presence throughout and I was irritated by his perpetual smugness. He has the slow, methodical walk of an assassin and in interviews he has the superior air of someone enjoying a private joke that he has no intention of sharing.  It made me wonder why co-writer and director Annalisa Piras, a journalist and communications adviser, didn’t  play a more prominent role in front of the camera.

The one voice we don’t hear from directly  is Silvio Berlusconi who, not surprisingly, refused to participate. Despite, or perhaps because of, his absence, his shadow looms large throughout. Criticism of him is constant but even his fervent enemies recognise that he is a man who understands that the loudest and simplest voices prevail and Umberto Eco  refers to him as an “evil genius”.

The film is flawed but is clearly made by people who love and care about Italy. It covers a lot of ground and avoids some of the more obvious stereotypes to present a fairly accurate overview of the issues. A GIAC website seeks to turn the movie into a fully fledged campaign.

Its chief weakness lies in the fact that it does not present the kind of radical shift of political and moral attitudes that are necessary if Italy is to avoid becoming an “impoverished tourist park”.

Emmott says “bad government is to blame for letting bad capitalism thrive”. This carries the implicit message that such a thing as good or enlightened capitalism exists despite all evidence to the contrary.

Dante and his girlfriend.

Dante and his girlfriend.

I would argue that it is the rampant pursuit of money and power for its own sake that lies at the heart of the malaise; it is this which ensures that corrupt politicians, unscrupulous businessmen and Mafia type organisations continue to flourish.

Mario Monti talks vaguely about forming a “coalition of the excluded” but as a temporary caretaker of the government he did little to turn the country around.

The brief clip of comic turned political rebel, Beppe Grillo only emphasises how dated this film already seems. It makes no reference to Grillo’s Five Star Movement and this feels like a big gap since the majority of support for this party derives from the young, disillusioned voters this movie should be aimed at.

Piras and Emmott would do well to take note of the words of  another british economist, John Maynard Keynes, who wrote to the effect that “capitalism is the astounding belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all”.

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