Monday, March 11, 2013

Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy (orig. Romanzo di una Strage) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing* listing

Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy (orig. Romanzo di una Strage)[2012] [IMDb] []* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Marco Tullio Giordana [IMDb] [TrCin]* along with Sandro Petraglia [IMDb] [TrCin]*and Stefano Rulli [IMDb] []* based on the book by Paulo Cucchiarelli is a critically acclaimed and award winning Italian historical drama (earning among other awards 3 Italian David di Donatello awards in 2012 and 14 additional nominations) about the December 12, 1969 bombing of the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura at the Piazza Fontana in Milan [Eng] [Ital].*  It played recently as an Italian contribution to the 16th Annual European Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, IL.

During the Cold War (1947-1991), both Superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, jockeyed for advantage wherever they could, seeking to destabilize allies of the other side, while seeking often brutally to keep their allied nations in line.  The opening credits of this film make known that the events presented in the film are to be understood in the context of the 1967 U.S. supported Military Coup in Greece and the 1968 Soviet Invasion of Communist Czechoslovakia.  Italy, though a NATO ally throughout the whole of the Cold War also sported the largest Communist Party in the NATO bloc.  Hence it was always considered at least potentially "in play."  

The film begins presenting Italy in 1969 as a nation perhaps not in chaos (yet) but near the brink with Anarchists and militant Communists on the Left, and neo-Fascists on the Right (Remember World War II was still less than 25 years past, and Italy had entered that War on the Axis side with Fascist leader Mussolini having been in power for some 20 years previous.  Hence there would have been still plenty of people from that fallen regime still around who would have remembered it "fondly").  The Soviet Union was presumably backing the militant Communists (and perhaps the Anarchists) while the United States was certainly backing the ruling Italian Christian Democratic Party and presumably the more law-and-order hardliners in the Italian Military propping it up (and perhaps even the neo-Fascists lurking in the shadows). 

In the midst of this chaotic stew, a wave of anarchist bombings was taking place in Italy in 1969.  The bombs, while "small" (thus not producing significant casualties) were nevertheless serving their purpose -- sowing fear among the populace.  And on the other side there was Junio Valerio Borghese (Eng) (Ital)* (played in the film by Marco Zannoni [IMDb] [TrCin]*) from an old Noble / Fascist era family calling for a "Restoration of Order."  (Borghese did actually plot a coup, that became known as the Golpe Borgese (Eng) (Ital) for Dec. 8, 1970.  However, it never materialized and after being discovered, he was forced to flee the country).

Then suddenly, on Dec 12, 1969, a BIG bomb explodes in the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura at the Piazza Fontana in Milan (Eng) (Ital),* killing 18 and wounding over 70.  Was this the beginning of an escalation?  That's what the fear was as Milanese police brought in noted local anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli [Eng] [Ital]* (played in the film by Pierfrancesco Favino [IMDb] [TrCin]*) for questioning.  Pinelli had been even seens a few days before the bombing near the Bank.  Had he been casing the location? 

However, after several days of questioning, Pinelli is suddenly dead, having "fallen" out a four story window.  Did he commit suicide?  Was he pushed (or dropped) by Italian investigators?  The story that the police present is that he simply "fell" (went over to the window to smoke a cigarette and simply/tragically fainted, falling to his death).  Few, of course, would believe a story like that. 

Suspicion regarding Pinelli's death fell on Luigi Calebresi [Eng] [Ital]* (played in the film by Valerio Mostandrea [IMDb] [TrCin]*) the detective responsible for Pinelli during the questioning.  Yet, Calabresi always maintained his innocence, insisting that he wasn't present when Pinelli died.  Also, despite rabidly inflammatory denunciations made against him by the Radical Left, he was actually investigating the trafficking of bomb making material by Right-wing extremist groups when he was assassinated in front of his home on May 17, 1972. 

Left-wing extremists were blamed (and convicted) for his assassination.  However, as time when on, suspicion regarding the perpetrators of the bombing of the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura at the Piazza Fontana (Eng) (Ital) did actually move to from the Far Left to the Far Right and with it to hard-right elements within the Italian security services and even to the CIA.  Why?  It's partly conjecture (remember the beginning credits to the film making note the recent interventions by the Superpowers in nearby Greece and Czechoslovakia) and partly because apparently right-wing groups in Italy were, in fact, being found with explosives as well.  And ominously THOSE explosives that the Right had its hands on, apparently originated from NATO stockpiles.  Were they stolen?  Were they sold?  Were they handed to right-wing extremist groups to further a cause?  What cause?  The thesis of the film would argue: to create an environment justifying a military coup.

The film, intended naturally for primarily an Italian audience, nevertheless offers American audiences a glimpse into what the experience of the Cold War was like in Western Europe:  Lot's of "ins" and "outs," most of the "players" with agendas and with it often being very difficult to understand who to trust. 

And in the midst of this "big game of shadows," little people like Milanese Inspector Calabresi, with a wife, two children and a third on the way, could find themselves dead, not necessarily knowing by whom or why. 

Incidently already Pope Paul VI began the process of beatifying Luigi Calabresi as a "Martyr for Justice" by the Catholic Church [Eng] [Ital].*

* Machine translations into English of the Italian links provided are most easily viewed through use of Google's Chrome brower.

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