With a dark true crime combination of drama and thriller, the Italian Stefano Mordini presented himself at the festival in Venice, and he filmed “La scuola cattolica” or “The Catholic School” based on the novel of the same name by Edoardo Albaniti. His character here is also the narrator of the whole story, since the writer himself attended a prestigious Catholic school in Rome in 1975, when an unimaginable, terrible crime took place there. This film shows what happened at the school and what preceded the event that shocked the Italian public and is called the Circe massacre. This harrowing but high-quality film, which cleverly and complexly deals with this topic, shows who those young men were who attended that Catholic school and what led to that tragic event in the first place.
Mordini contextualized time and space brilliantly, because Italy in the mid-seventies was an extremely violent place with frequent assassinations, terrorist attacks, and violence and fear were something to live with. But the environment of a strict but respectable school for boys under the patronage of the Catholic Church, which was mostly attended by children of rich parents or at least those of the upper middle class, was assumed to be a safe zone, a place where there should be no such worries. And Mordini brilliantly portrays that environment and the characters who attended that school, that hypocritical environment that seemed to encourage young men to be aggressive and to be able to do whatever they want. That place where the first priority was the donations of rich parents who bought everything and thanks to which the most aggressive and violent students could literally do whatever they wanted.
We get to know Edoard and a few of his friends as bright and promising young men, some of whom are 16 or 17 years old, who don’t fit into that society of arrogant, aggressive young rich people who can do whatever they want. Of course, they are the main faces at school and bully the weaker ones around them with impunity, and the environment seems to have encouraged them to be like that. We also see their families, and although the story is very interesting, I have the impression that Mordini could and should have gotten a lot more out of it. Admittedly, it was probably not at all easy to condense a reflective novel of 1,200 pages into a two-hour film, and it is as if the author decided to take the path of being as apolitical as possible, although in reality the perpetrators of the heinous crimes were connected to the radical right such as churches at least they tacitly support it.
Mordini seems to have simultaneously tried to reconcile a coming-of-age drama about the growing up of curious and good kids like Edoardo and his best friends, their first loves and sexual experiences with a dark thriller about sociopaths in the making, young sadists convinced that they can do anything with impunity whatever he wants. Although he is the main character of the story, Edoardo is only a marginal witness to these shocking events, a kid who spent time with the perpetrators and who knew them. A witness who was aware of what these young people were ready for and who was aware of how they were protected, how practically no one even tried to punish and stop them for earlier, milder offenses and twisted behavior, and all this led to horror which is better not to be informed about before watching the film.