Will Italy come out of its coma?

Brigid Maher   La Trobe University

Love it or leave it, Italy is in terminal decline. At least this is the message of Girlfriend in a Coma, a new documentary about the state the country finds itself in today.

Girlfriend in a coma stil_28The film was co-created by director Annalisa Piras and former editor-in-chief of The Economist, Bill Emmott (based on his book Good Italy, Bad Italy), with animation by Phoebe Boswell. It has already made the news in Italy after its mid-February premiere at Rome’s MAXXI was cancelled by the museum’s president due to concerns about impartiality in the lead-up to the elections, causing some to smell the rat of censorship.

Covering some similar ground to Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi’s Italy: Love It or Leave It (2011) but taking a different approach, Girlfriend in a Coma examines all that is wrong with Italy today in terms of corruption, greed and small-mindedness, while also showcasing the many positive, constructive and creative responses by ordinary and extraordinary Italians.

Talking heads include numerous prominent figures from Italian politics, business, academia, anti-mafia and the arts as well as members of the growing diaspora (whom Stefano Bona called to action in his recent post on this blog).

Girlfriend in a coma stil_12The girlfriend of the title is Italy herself. Exquisite animations, doused in explosive black humour, depict the repeated brutalization of a vulnerable personified Italy by a masked commedia dell’arte villain.

While Hofer and Ragazzi’s film has an optimistic ending, with the directors opting to ‘love’ rather than ‘leave’ Italy, Girlfriend in a Coma is best described as open-ended. In fact, it ends with the words ‘This is NOT the end’, leaving viewers to take responsibility for deciding what can be done and indeed must be done to jolt the country out of her comatose state. Dantesque allegory pervades the film, which presents not only good Italy and bad Italy but also what is perhaps the worst sin of all, ignavia (sloth). Like much cultural production in response to the country’s economic and political crisis, it has an interactive and activist aspect to it, exhorting Italians to act and to act now, before it’s too late. The filmmakers have already travelled to different parts of the country to present the film and engage in discussion with audiences. Viewers are also encouraged to submit video responses outlining what they would like to do to save Italy.

Now we just need to watch this space.

You can view the official trailer here. You can read more about the film, track its progress and reception as it screens across Italy, and download it for a small fee at the official website. (Viewers in Italy can download it here.)

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2 thoughts on “Will Italy come out of its coma?

  1. DM says:

    For those of us wanting help in making sense of some of the attempts to wake Italy from its coma, there’s a useful history of Grillo’s M5S in Fabio Bordognon and Luigi Ceccarini, ‘Five Stars and a Cricket: Beppe Grillo Shakes Italian Politics’, South European Politics and Society (2013), 21 February, available online here.

  2. stefano bona says:

    Dear Brigid, thanks so much for posting your review of this extraordinary documentary. Extraordinary for two reasons: the way it is made, and the exhortation to act and to get rid of ignavia.

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