Starring: Elio Germano and Riccardo Scarmarcio
Director: Daniele Luchetti
IN the early 1960s, a number of Italian directors, some of them soon to be big names like Bolognini and Pasolini, made films about disaffected young men in and around Rome (Il Bell’ Antonio, Accatone).
These directors were the inheritors of the neo-realistic style of the post war period but which delved into the poverty, the politics, the sordidness of the lives of the people they portrayed. These films serve as a contemporary mirror of the times.
Forty years later, Italian directors are still fascinated by stories and characters from these backgrounds. This is certainly true of Daniele Luchetti’s film My Brother is an Only Child.
It was co-written by a prolific team, Stefano Rulli and Sandro Petraglia whose impressive credits include The Best of Youth, Rosi’s La Tregua and two strong films for Gianni Amelio, Il Ladro di Bambini and Le Chiavi di Casa. This film has proven popular at the Italian box-office.
It opens in 1962 (actually the year that the Second Vatican Council opened).
It has a church and anti-church beginning typical of the times: the younger brother goes to a junior seminary, his parents proud of him and happy to have a priest in the family; his older brother is opposed, taunts him, leaves him a photo of an actress and the teenager recognises he will have sexuality problems and leaves the seminary.
Apart from holy pictures on walls, that is the end of the presence of the Church in these young men’s lives.
What inspires one is the Communist Party, Italian style, full of sound and fury but idealistically wanting to signify something – brought to a head in the film in the student revolutions of 1968 and a scene of the occupation of the Rome conservatory and a performance of Beethoven’s Song of Joy with new lyrics which begin with, “Mao, Lenin, Stalin…”
That is the path of the older brother who works in a factory, develops skills as a political demagogue, has a girlfriend from a wealthy family in Turin but who gets caught up in the struggle, letting it consume his life at the expense of family.
What initially inspires the younger brother after his return home and his continual fights with mother, sister and older brother is a Fascist friend who fills his imagination with Right-wing enthusiasm. He joins the party and absorbs the ideology.
Luchetti has the advantage of two very strong emerging young actors to embody these characters and their political and emotional conflicts: Elio Germano as the younger, Riccardo Scarmarcio as the older.
Luchetti has remarked that this story contributes to the general Italian biography, the life of Italy (or, at least Rome and Lazio) during the changes of the 1960s and the early 1970s.
He says that the film does not take a political stand: it shows people who take stands – “I believe this was my key, finding the human element which is personal and emotional at the core”.
The characters can be both irritating and frustrating for the audience – and that is one of the strengths of the film.
The other is the strong drawing of the supporting characters, the boys’ angry mother, especially her outburst at the corruption that has prevented poorer families from moving into government build housing; the kindly father; the sympathetic girlfriend of the older brother; the local Fascist; and his wife who initiates the young man.
Audiences who are familiar with 20th century Italian history will find the film an emotional story that will remind them of Italy’s political and social change.
The film ends just as the neo-terrorist groups are beginning their attacks.