Ten Movies for Five Stars

The Movimento 5 Stelle is the biggest novelty of the last decade, for Italian politics. And it is still difficult, even for Italians, to totally understand its nature. Here’s a list of 10 (actually 11) movies to help also the non-Italians comprehend all the facets of this shimmering chimera:

#1: V for Vendetta
All over the world, the term “V-Day” commonly refers to a large movement fighting violence against women (the “V” stands for “vagina”). In Italy, instead, the V-Day – where “V” stands for “Vaffanculo” – is remembered as the event that turned the spotlight on the people (and the leader) who later gave birth to the Five Stars Movement.
Italy is not the only case in which this film has had an impact on political and social movements, but it is probably the country where this influence has been stronger and more lasting. After the V-Day, the “V” of Vendetta winded up in the logo of the MoVement and, above all, Guy Fawkes’ philosophy (?) lied at the heart of its thought and spirit, constantly mentioned. Large part of the five-starred electorate (“grillini”) really wants to “blow up” the Parliament, and the Movement knows how to manage and represent this appetite for destruction. It can be transformed into «opening up the Parliament as a tuna can», but the deep desire remains clear. The M5S is primarily the answer to the need to raze the past to the ground, perpetrating the revenge even at the cost of overlooking the future.

#2: Network
The M5S is a populist party. It knows how to “speak to the gut“, it is able to find the right moment and way to ask people to stand up and shout: «I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!». And act accordingly, driven by anger and frustration. To understand the Movement we must look at the blind rage behind it. Blind rage does not care for reasons, for Reason, for complexity. It is appetite for destruction. Directed towards clear enemies, including the symbol of Power, the channel of frustration, enslavement and disinformation: television. Both an enemy and an ally. To understand the Movement we must look at its ability to communicate – also through television – with this rage.
But today, for us, “network” refers to something else, to a terrain – the Web – on which the Movement has built much of its consensus. And the network is sacred, for the Movement. On receiving his Oscar for The Social Network in 2011, the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said: «If you put it [Network] in your DVD player today you’ll feel like it was written last week. The commoditization of the news and the devaluing of truth are just a part of our way of life now. You wish Chayefsky could come back to life long enough to write “The Internet”».

#3: Zeitgeist: the Movie
The Movement was born from the Web, for the Web. It spread on the Web and with the Web. And with everything that the Web enables to produce and circulate. It makes use of a mass medium (the Internet) seen as an alternative (to TV) to spread an alternative Truth. Such as that conveyed by conspiracy theories. A world that is fed in the meadows left empty by traditional media, weak democratic institutions and uncontested economic powers. The three pillars that the five-starred people see as traitors (also: here). Instead of accepting the existence of crises, analyzing and facing them as consequences of structural visible (not for this justified) conditions, they prefer to conceive them as results of the invisible, of a spirit of the time which systematically hides the Truth, of an interaction-free contrast between “the people” (the victims, citizens, consumers, the honest) and “the caste” (the élite, the executioners, the occultists, politicians, powerful men, journalists, scientists, the dishonest). As in any betrayal, denial of reality is the first step for a fracture, for political and social incommunicability.

#4: Fahrenheit 9/11
Truth and honesty are two keywords for the Movement. Which sees in journalism, that should live on truth and honesty, a powerful (counter-)revolutionary weapon, firmly in the hands of the Major Powers. But there are some anchors of salvation, heroes who inquire and denounce, who reveal what is hidden and know how to leverage on emotions to unleash the revolt.
The prototype of the journalist? Michael Moore, of course. Organic to the Democratic Party but servant of the Truth. Working-class origins, thorny questions, communicativeness. And ability to dispel the myth of America, of those United States who created this distorted world, made of war, wild capitalism and corrupt politics. In the years of Berlusconi’s censorship, Moore’s documentaries were, in the collective imagination of the society fascinated by M5S, the symbol of what the Bel Paese needed: a courageous journalism who could grasp the dimension of the universal deceit. This is the basis for the sodality between the Movement and its image in the print media: Il Fatto Quotidiano, product of the encounter between the disgruntled and rebel post-communists (see Antonio Padellaro & co.) and the sons of Montanelli‘s historical right (Marco Travaglio & co.).

#5: Reservoir Dogs
One title well represents the meeting between the need for Truth and the destructive violence of the M5S’s political message: Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Both because these two themes are central in the whole production of the director, and because the Italian title (Le Iene) refers for Italians not only to the 1992 movie, but mainly to a well-known TV program aired by Mediaset, Berlusconi’s network. A program that mixes (gross) entertainment and (illusory) journalism (infotainment) relying on its ability to reach the great audience, mainly composed of young people. Sensationalism and desecration, fertile ground for the Movement’s culture, as it was for Berlusconi.
But then, of course, the movie itself. The ultra-violence of the torture scene has the same intensity of the shock and the same arrogance that the Movement has brought to Italian politics. And the entire film is full of references to the anthropological universe of the Five Stars. Steve Buscemi, with its anti-tip philosophy, perfectly matches a profile of grillino voter.

#6: Quo vado?
The grillino electorate is socially, politically and culturally heterogeneous. Perhaps representing the politics of the new Millennium. Large part of this audience has poor origins and lacks of the tools to respond differently to the complexity of our time. It is the same audience mobilized by Checco Zalone, comedian, author, and actor little known abroad, but box office record holder in the peninsula (Quo vado? is the highest-grossing Italian film ever). An audience who likes to laugh with light-heartedness and a certain vulgarity. Proudly far from the cultural complexes and the sophistications of the snobbish left. A wide audience, because the language of the comedian reaches the masses better than many professional politicians. As Beppe Grillo understood first of all.

#7: Cercasi Gesù (“Looking for Jesus”)
The Five Stars Movement is a leaderist party. Behind the motto “Uno vale uno” (“One counts for one”), propagandizing equality among all the members, including the elected representatives, lies an enormous centralization of power, in the hands of the “guarantor“, Beppe Grillo, and of his team of acolytes, the Casaleggio Associati.
One cannot look at the Movement without gathering this original sin, this enduring contradiction. This is why a place of honor must be reserved to Luigi Comencini‘s movie, that brought Beppe Grillo to the fore as an actor, in 1982. Interpreting Jesus Christ, the Genoese comedian won no less than two prestigious national prizes (David di Donatello and Nastro d’argento) as best debuting actor.

#8: Il Divo
The biography of the leader is important not only for his weight within the Movement, but also for its ideological roots. Grillo is a man of the 1980s, has lived his first season of success (as a comedian) at the sunset of the First Republic. And this, together with the general paralysis of the Italian society, is fundamental to identify (some of) the enemies of the Movement. Mafia, corruption, parties, politicians, the roman corridors of power. An undying Italy that has had in Giulio Andreotti, brilliantly portrayed by Paolo Sorrentino, its highest and most powerful exponent. Andreotti’s figure risks (?) to go down in history as the Absolute Evil (“Belzebù”), and it is for sure the first and clearest example that is cited – especially by the youngest, very often born after the end of the First Republic – to represent the corruption and the decline of Italian politics and society. A decline that the Movement can hardly face and win.

#9: I cento passi (“The hundred steps”)
The film by Marco Tullio Giordana is the plastic representation of the heterogeneity of the people and of the cultural roots of the Movement. It draws the fine line that separates and unites worlds otherwise not communicating. The populist shouting of V and William Holden becomes the scream resisting the Mafia, «a pile of shit!». The journalistic denouncement and the need for dissident voices give life to Radio Aut. And then environmentalism, revolt, the ability to speak to young people. The Movement seems able to hold together these approaches, collecting the approval both of the populist and xenophobic right-wing and of the radical left, of (ex-)communists à-la Peppino Impastato. The future will tell if this is only driven by an incredible capacity of synthesis or, instead, it constitutes a true post-ideological phenomenon.

#10: Snowden and The Fifth Estate
Peppino Impastato is part of the pantheon of “secular saints” whose experiences and stories (very heterogeneous, once again) are said to inspire the Movement. Outside Italy, this pantheon definitely includes two figures: Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. For much of what we have already seen: the importance of the Web, the will of rebellion, anti-Americanism, conspiracies. But especially for a deeper connection with our time. Snowden and Assange are two men of the new Millennium, two images of our era and of its structures. Two figures that in Italy, except for the M5S, are perceived for what they are not: representatives of something ephemeral and transient. Falling stars.

Featured image: Joan Mirò, Constellations (1940)

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