The director, screenwriter, and writer Gianni Amelio presents his latest film: Il signore delle formiche (Lord of the Ants). A film that (finally) breaks the veil of reality on a bigoted Italy in the late 1960s, recalling the Braibanti’s case, one of the most controversial moments in Italian history.
Who is Aldo Braibanti?
Aldo Braibanti was born in 1922s in the province of Piacenza, a young partisan and active member of the Italian Communist Party, specifically dealing with the Tuscan Communist Youth. At the age of twenty-five, he retired definitively from politics and from any party to create a "cenacle" in Castell'Arquato, where girls and boys from the province of Piacenza could study various forms of art: from painting to music, to dance, to acting. Among his followers, there is Riccardo, a boy of the Emilian conservative bourgeoisie, who strongly desires to be appreciated by his master but who receives only disapproval from him. One day Riccardo brings with him his brother Ettore (in the reality of the story Giovanni Sanfratello), who has discovered one of those ants that Braibanti, a passionate myrmecologist, collects in a case. The intellectual immediately shows gratitude and esteem for that intelligent and kind boy to the point of mutual love.
The one between two men, so immoral and shameful for the feel-good mentality of Italy in the '60s that will led Braibanti to the charge of plagiarism against the minor Ettore. The crime of "plagiarism" was provided for by Article 603 of the Penal Code, then abolished in 1981, which punished anyone who subjected a person to his power, so as to reduce him in total subjection.
The social stomach
"Each ant has two stomachs; one for itself and another one for another ant that has no food. This is a great teaching in society, we should all observe the behavior of ants because they make wonderful discoveries," says the director, quoting a phrase from the film.
The society of those times, extremely bigoted and individualist, will witness this very long process that will lead the Braibanti to have to suffer all kinds of accusations from witnesses but to be defended by Ettore, when he is called to testify, despite the mental hospital and the electroshock treatments he had undergone. Denying that he had been plagiarized and had freely chosen to attend Braibanti and follow him to Rome. Nevertheless, the man of many talents was sentenced to nine years in prison. In appeal, the sentence was reduced and he eventually spent two years in prison.
The true victim
"In the final of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, there is a decisive phrase that also contains the meaning of my film: I kill you for having loved you. In fact, the real victim of this really happened story, is not Braibanti but the boy who had to suffer in addition to the media mud, even the "care" to be able to heal from what was defined as a disease. “Then the feeling of the protagonists dies, killing even the love chorus of which they were partly because of the stigma of being homosexual" adds the director.
"The message of the film in a sentence is: to have courage, to always be yourself. This is not obvious, because we often tend to block our true being in front of our parents, friends, or in the school environment. I pay particular attention to teachers who can often manipulate and condition the soul and entity of boys and girls" concludes Amelio.
The colossal Luigi Lo Cascio (Aldo Braibanti) flanked by Elio Germano (the journalist of the Ennio Unit), is worthily accompanied by a cast of newcomers including Leonardo Maltese who plays in a wonderful way the boy protagonist of the story.
The lord of ants is a clear and full portrait of the love of to free people, able to excite without shortcuts, leaving great points of personal reflection.