The Front Line (2009)
Directed By: Renato De Maria.
Written By: Sandro Petraglia, Ivan Cotroneo, Fidel Signorile, based on the book Sergio Segio by Miccia Corta
Starring: Riccardo Scamarcio (Sergio Segio), Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Suzanna Ronconi).
From the late 1960s through the 1970s, a number of left wing terrorist group rose to prominence throughout the world. Americans no doubt remember the Weather Underground or the Symbionese Liberation Army, Germans no doubt remember the group fronted by Baader and Meinhoff, and in
a number of organizations
sprung up. Among them was the Prima Linea (or The Front Line in English), and
this is a film that follows of its founding members, Sergio Segio (played here
by Riccardo Scamarcio), mainly from the late 1970s into the early 1980s. Unlike
the recent German film, The Baader Meinhoff Complex which turned the events
into a rip roaring action movie, this movie is somewhat slower and more
methodical. It is also far more dull and uninteresting. Italy
The movie flashes back and forth through time, and shows how Segio got involved in the group in the first, their early, non-violent days, to the point where the group escalated from staging marches and protests, until actually carrying out bombings and assassinations. Segio falls in love with another of the group’s leaders – Suzanna Ronconi (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), and remains enamored with her long after he has stopped believing in the cause that brought them together in the first place.
And herein lies the problem. From the beginning of the film, we know that Segio will become disenfranchised with the group and their actions, and in fact, he seems to be fairly disenfranchised almost from the beginning. This is not the story of a true believer who later regretted his actions after he was caught and sent to prison. This is the story of a man who never really believed in what he was doing in the first place, but kept right on doing it for more than a decade. It makes for a rather dull and lifeless film.
The lead performance by Scamarcio does little to help this. He is as dull and lifeless as the film itself, always staring at the camera with his sad eyes, and on multiple occasions from his prison cell he delivers long monologues (while staring directly into the camera) talking about how terribly wrong they were to do what they did. Say what you want about Steven Soderbergh’s four hour Che biopic, but there is passion in Del Toro’s eyes as he plays Guerrva – you feel that he truly believes that what he is doing is the only course of action for him to take. Segio spends so much time thinking, and whining, about what he “has” to do, that he becomes a thoroughly uninteresting character. Because the movie is built around him, this spells death for the film itself.
Mezzogiorno is a little more lively as Ronconi, yet we never truly get to understand what led her to join the group in the first place, or why she though their actions were the correct course. But at least she is interesting. Director Renato De Maria shots the film with a nice cinema veritie style – his handheld camera is always moving, yet he cannot bring the movie to life. The movie just sits there on the screen and never really becomes an interesting film. It certainly is not a terrible movie, but it is a thoroughly disengaging one. A movie like this should be engrossing. This one never is.
Note: I saw this film at TIFF 2009, and at this point, I have to believe it’s not going to get a proper released in North America – so I decided to publish the review I wrote then anyway.