Belloccio's Mafiosi Ambience
By Bijaya Jena
The Traitor is a 2019 film made by the 80-year-old Italian veteran director, Marco Bellocchio (famous for the film, Vincere). It is about the Sicilian mafia don, Tommaso Buscetta who agreed to be an informant for the Italian government and made history in the world of mafia.
The film creates the detailed ambience of the mafiosi very well. The director included few compelling court room scenes based on actual transcripts which look like jail rooms with the drug lords and drug dealers in a caged area. The murder scenes are done with the countdown of seconds flashing on the screen in a very innovative way. It has many flash backs and forwards where dead and alive members of the family circle around the protagonist. Talking to the dead creates an eerie atmosphere.
The highlight of the film is a scene where Buscetta is hung from a helicopter by the Brazilian authorities and in another helicopter the police hang his wife to pressurise him in revealing his real identity to extradite him.
The moral complexities of honour among the Cosa Nostra members is the most intriguing part of this film.
The lead actor, Pierfransesco Favino gives a bravura performance and accomplishes 30-years of time span with his body language and makeup with ease. He expresses his despair, moral ambiguities and convictions of Cosa Nostra honour very effectively. In a flashback scene, Buscetta breaks down while speaking about his two sons killed by Riina’s man, Calo. He regrets his failing as a father and asks himself as to why he did not force them to come with him to Brazil. This is a very poignant scene ably acted with restraint by Favino.The scene would have been very melodramatic with a lesser actor. Favino surely deserves the top honours at the year-end award season.
In USA, Buscetta goes out with his family on a Christmas eve for dinner to a restaurant and hears a singer singing a famous Sicilian song which rekindles the memory of his youth and unsettles him. He ends up leaving the restaurant abruptly. Even though he has turned into an informant and the Italian government supports him financially in USA, ghosts from his past haunt him.
In Colorado, Buscetta visits his Sicilian friend who is working as a car salesman in his shop and is amused watching him talk to an American buyer in Italian language. Buscetta laments that he used to earn millions earlier but now he has to depend on his wife’s income.
The car scene shows a great sense of camaraderie. The friend says he would go to Sicily to accomplish his unfinished business and kill the drug lord, Riina. Buscetta asks him if his wife would wait for him. The friend replies that he is a free spirit and that even God could not change him. They both remember their favorite Italian dessert, gelato and Buscetta says he has promised judge Falcone to meet and have gelato with him. The music by Oscar winner, Nicola Giovani is hauntingly beautiful.
The cinematographer, Vladan Radovic captures the period very well, especially the opening scene in a house overlooking the sea where men stand holding flaming torches in the lawn.
The last scene of the film where he sits in his Florida residence terrace with a gun on a chair is simply poetry on celluloid. A beautiful evening vista is in front of him as the moon hangs over the night sky. A dog sleeps downstairs as a cat passes by Buscetta becomes alert and clutches his gun. His wife enters the terrace and when she sees him sleeping, she covers him with a shawl and takes his gun away.
We all thought Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola are the fathers of Mafiosi films but Bellochio proves that he is no less of a master of this genre.