Film Review: Good Morning, Night

‘Good Morning, Night’ is based on the events surrounding Aldo Moro’s kidnapping and murder by the Brigate Rosse (BR) or Red Brigades in 1978. However, it is important to highlight that this film is not strictly a factual representation of the event. In director Marco Bellocchio’s own words “Since I’m not a historian, I’m not interested in the factual truth, but more in telling a story in a new and unconventional way.” Bellocchio himself was involved with the Communist Party in Italy throughout the 1970s and is known for his leftist leanings although he adamantly denounces the violence used by the BR to achieve revolution. This film appears to be a personal meditation on the event and how it is reconstructed and played back in the memory of Italians. He juxtaposes the reality felt by BR members during their violent campaign for revolution and the actual reality that existed in the community at large.

Through his juxtaposition, Bellocchio is able to highlight the contradiction that existed between Brigate Rosse’s perceived needs of the people and a political reality where generally the people were happy with their government. The spark for Moro’s kidnapping is credited to the ‘compromesso storico’ or ‘historic compromise’ in which the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and the ruling Christian Democratic Party (DC) were willing to make concessions in order to see a more effective Italian Government. This infuriated the BR who felt betrayed by the PCI in their socialist revolution and so they kidnapped Moro, the President of the DC and one of the engineers of the compromise.

Moro’s depiction in the film and his relationship with his captors serves to highlight the Brigade’s disconnection with the developing political climate outside of their dark, shuttered apartment. Mariano, the leader of the group, tells Moro “I represent the proletariat”. However, Moro contends “My party is a true people’s party. It’s a party for the masses.” Indeed the DC was the ruling party in a democratically elected state and a coalition with the PCI would have created a staunch majority. Both Moro and BR are adamant in their claims of bearing the torch of the people and their conflicting dialogue make one question the Brigade’s violent campaign a public that may already be happy. If Moro is correct in asserting the DC represents the people then one begins to question the ideological basis of their revolution. Perhaps they are fighting a war for a public that does not support their communist ideals.

This disconnection with the public and reality is a recurring theme in the film. The various media reports and individual member’s reactions are indicative of their inability to comprehend public perception. They scour news casts obsessively, seeking some sort of recognition or appreciation for the sacrifice the BR made for the people. However, it does not come and Ernesto, the member posing as a husband, asks in frustration why no one is rebelling or celebrating the Brigade’s heroic efforts. There were some acts of rebellion, such as the painting of the BR symbol in an elevator at the workplace of Chiara, the main female character. The elevator door opens on each floor and shock, distress and above all fear, flit across their faces as they are confronted with the dripping red star. When Chiara explains the event to her comrades they dismiss it and instead reference the factory workers who supposedly support their revolution. Even here though, support seems to be thin. As Chiara catches the bus she hears a group of old ladies questioning why anyone would want to kidnap such a ‘nice, decent man’ as Aldo Moro.

Although the audience is able to catch glimpses of public reaction, the film is perhaps lacking in historical background and a development of the ideology behind the goal of a Marxist-Leninist revolution. While Bellocchio is adept at humanizing the terrorists, he provides little explanation of the rationale and thinking behind their violent actions. The Brigate Rosse sought to undermine the power of the state in order to bring about a Communist revolution and break from a Western NATO alliance. They believed they alone were working for the people and were willing to sacrifice their lives for a higher cause. Unlike other radical Marxist groups, such as Baader-Meinhof, BR had origins in urban factories across Italy and held true to their ideology more adamantly and for longer than the majority of groups. However, to an audience out of touch with the 1970s and unaware of the radical revolutionary climate of the time, the BR may appear simply as indiscriminate murderers without a cause. Therefore, it is a little difficult to accept the director’s assertion that his was an ‘unbiased exploration.’ While at times the BR is removed from public and political reality we need to keep in mind the ideological reality that drove them to become a terrorist organization.

Despite this shortfall, ‘Good Morning, Night’ raises some very interesting questions and sheds a new light on the tragic kidnapping and execution of Aldo Moro. One of the interesting elements of the film was Chiara’s dreams, in particular the ‘dream’ of Moro walking free from his prison and through the streets of Rome. While history tells us Moro was executed by his captors it raises the question of what could have been. Bellocchio and others denounce the violence of the BR, despite their leftist leanings, and it has been argued that the revolution may have taken a different course had they chosen to spare Moro’s life. Hindsight can be a wonderful thing but in this case we will never really know. The image of Moro walking on the street in the early hours is somewhat ghostly. Perhaps Bellocchio is commenting on the profound effect that the Red Brigade’s violence had on the Italian psyche and how it lingers in the memory of the people.