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ARIAFERMA (2021, ITA) – 6.5/10

 

This drama set in an old prison in the vicinity of Naples had as many as 11 nominations in the selection for the best Italian film of the year, and at the end the David di Donatello award went to director Leonardo di Costanzo and his team for the best screenplay and veteran Silvio Orlando for the best male role. His Carmine Lagioia is one of the 12 prisoners of the old prison who will remain there even though the casemate is closing and all the other prisoners have been assigned to some other penitentiary. The prison was built sometime in the 19th century and is about to collapse, and the prisoners and a few guards were told that it would only be like that for a few days. And while both are waiting for the transfer and closing of the prison, tensions are rising, and the relationship between guards and prisoners is slowly changing.

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In the foreground is the relationship between the mafia boss, a measured old guy, and the chief security guard, also a guy about to retire, Gaetano Gargioulo, played by the legendary Italian actor Toni Servillo, who is still best remembered for his starring role in Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty”. Gargioulo is an experienced guard who always played by the rules and was fair to the prisoners, but he always kept his distance and had to know order. But as time will pass, and no news about the transfer will arrive, both the prisoners and the guards will seem to begin to understand that they are in the same basket, and Servillo and Orlando have confirmed themselves as exceptional actors and this story works mostly thanks to their masterful dynamics. It will all start seemingly benignly, with the prisoners protesting about the disastrous and inedible food they receive, which is why Lagioia will offer to prepare meals for everyone in the canteen.

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Through the movies, we have already learned that all these mafia bosses are also excellent cooks, so Lagioia is no exception, and Di Costanzo achieved a fine dynamic of the relationship not only between the two main characters, but also between the prisoners who see authority in the old mobster, and the situation and the story develop quite correctly there. The main question that seems to be raised by this film is perhaps not whether the guard and the prisoner can become friends, but whether people like them who are condemned to each other can build a relationship with respect, respect and trust? Very soon it will become clear to the viewer and to the characters that they are all in the same basket, and “Ariaferm” or “The Inner Cage” in the English translation can be seen as an interesting and intriguing observation about the dynamics of relationships between people and how people who are condemned to each other for various reasons, they can achieve much more if they realize that it is smarter for them to cooperate, and not to harm each other.

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