Italy is the country that has won the most Oscars in the category of the best film outside the English-speaking world, and one of the films that succeeded in this is this darkly humorous crime film – a subversive political satire about the corruption and incompetence of the Italian police by Elio Petri. And from the very beginning, this film with a long name is completely mesmerizing. With one of Ennio Morricone’s recognizable musical themes, an unknown man (Gian Maria Volnonte) enters the apartment of his lover (Florinda Bolkan). They obviously like sex games because she immediately asks him how are you going to kill me today, and it is clear to us that he is a sadist, a bully and a sociopath, while she is a masochist, but this time the game will turn into reality.
He is really going to kill her, but in the apartment he seems to deliberately leave countless clues that the murder could lead to him, and we soon realize that he is the head of the homicide division of the Roman police, whose last day on the job it was because he was promoted to the position the head of the political department and his task is to eavesdrop, spy and investigate subversives. However, he will continue to pretend to help his successor in the investigation, while at the same time leaving new clues that could lead to him, but thanks to his power and authority, he will play with everyone and manipulate evidence, witnesses and the entire investigation. By the end, we will understand what was actually the motive of this deranged policeman who wants the most authoritarian state and the greatest police powers possible, and he killed the unfortunate lover because he is impotent. He could no longer bear her constant teasing and the fact that she was in a parallel relationship with a young radical, a student from the neighborhood, and in this grotesque way he decided to prove her wrong. That he’s so powerful that when he kills her, he’ll literally be beyond suspicion, and no matter what the evidence points to him, no one in the police force will dare touch him.
This idea is his fantasy, which he will slowly begin to realize, and this provocative and controversial satire is at the same time an extraordinary and sharp criticism of the police apparatus and state power. And it should be known that Elio Petri was an extremely politically engaged filmmaker, an ardent communist in his youth, who renounced the party after the Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956. However, despite this, practically all the films he made were fierce criticism or satire of the political situation in society. Thus, in this film, he almost equates police authority and power through the character of the inspector with fascism, because he also likes to give passionate long speeches like the Duce and is fascinated by himself.
On the other hand, he disgusts himself because of his sexual deviance, which he identifies with liberalism, but he can’t help it, and it’s completely hilarious to watch how this absurd investigation progresses, which he constantly obstructs, manipulates, and brings witnesses who claim that he is the murderer, but his colleagues simply ignore that evidence. This film is also an interesting critique of society and the police apparatus, because we see that the police pay more attention to the number of various subversive graffiti on the facades, compiling a list of subversives, protesters and students, and they cannot solve the simplest crime.
“Investigation” crosses the border of absurdism from beginning to end, and Petri seems to have wanted to convey with this film that important and respectable people in Italy at the time could easily get away with committing the worst crimes, while an ordinary man was mistreated for the most ordinary nonsense. As time goes on, the deranged inspector will become more and more insane and will increasingly discover his true nature and fear that one day he will be completely powerless. So in one situation he says that democracy is actually a stepping stone to socialism, and although from the start this whole story seems completely surreal and absurd, this film works thanks to the great performance of Volonte, the legendary actor who is probably best remembered for his roles in spaghetti westerns.