Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original title: Neapolitanische Geschichten
Alternate title: The Reign of Naples
Italy/West Germany, 1978. P.B.C. S.p.a., Dieter Geissler Filmproduktion, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Story and Screenplay by Werner Schroeter, in collaboration with Wolf Wondratschek, Gerardo D’Andrea. Cinematography by Thomas Mauch. Produced by Peter Berling. Music by Roberto Pregadio. Production Design by Franco Calabrese. Costume Design by Alberte Barsacq. Film Editing by Werner Schroeter, Ursula West.
Werner Schroeter making a film that moves from beginning to end and is easy to follow seems almost more radical than his more impressionistic films; it’s worth pointing out, however, that telling a story in a more conventional manner does not diminish the power of his dramatic skills. Imagine a more political Visconti as we follow the saga of interrelated Neapolitan characters from the mid-forties to the early seventies. A husband struggles to raise his two children following the premature death of his wife, with his son rising up through the ranks of the ever-expanding Communist party, while his daughter tries her best to achieve everything that the education her parents never received can get for her. Next to them is a young woman who remains an old maid after an encounter with an American soldier during the war, whose mother marries an important member of the party in the spirit of helping their little family but ends up bringing more trouble upon herself. It has very little of the expressive flourish of Schroeter’s more eccentric films, but it isn’t all grim neorealism either; the factory-owner who exploits her workers and tries to make a prostitute out of our young heroine could have been plucked straight off the set of The Death Of Maria Malibran (or one of Almodovar’s later comedies). The director’s healthy sense of humour allows this one to ride the line between grittiness and soap-operatic melodrama with great aplomb.