Extinctional Family

31 Oct 2013: Fists in the Pocket (DVD, 1965, Marco Bellocchio)

Since one bathtub murder in a week wasn’t enough (the first one was faked, anyway), here’s a somewhat different story involving a similar device. While it has an unusual setup and dynamics (a houseful of epileptics or otherwise disabled family members in the country neglected by a “normal” but estranged brother who lives in town), memorable cinematography (e.g. an extremely long lateral shot of a main character as a wallflower at a party, sitting still as lines of dancers enter the shot and recede, a cage in shadow at the opposite side of the frame) and a hell of an ending, things never quite take flight until the last scene; the characters feel too totemic, perhaps, lacking distinguishing substance to their personalities, and events and even shots feel too hurried over, without the lingering needed to generate more resonance. There is a heady class-historical metaphor to be found, which elevates the plot above the simple angst-and-violence angry-young-man film it appears to be, and there are unusual choices of direction (following moving hands in close-up, dollying with faces pressed to dollies) that lead sight and concept away from conventional perception and thinking. Captured expertly are the suffocation and shyness that weigh down the freedoms of the clearly desperate lead sufferer, yet never manifested are even his pretenses at redeeming qualities or aspirations, which makes him into a sort of monotonous agent of destruction from the beginning. In a sense everything is given away from the getgo, which is an interesting way of carrying out the story, but the road to the finish is more like an interstate with miles-to-go markers than a scenic highway with unexpected and memorable stops. However, somehow, neither this nor a rather familiar piece of opera music can blunt the power of the harrowing conclusion, when the final victim at last essentially does make “good” on an earlier dour promise.

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