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Porte aperte 1990
Description: Tommaso Scalia is a boy who commits three murders: he killed his superior who sacked him, he kills the boy who replaced him, and he kills his own wife. He wants a fast trial and an early execution, but an earnest, principled assistant judge looks for a method to save the murderer from being shot, because he does not belive in capital punishment. Although he manages to save the boy initially, he will pay a high price for it.
Released: 29 Mar 1990 Director: Gianni Amelio Writers: Gianni Amelio, Vincenzo Cerami, Leonardo Sciascia (novel), Alessandro Sermoneta Actors: Gian Maria Volontè, Ennio Fantastichini, Renato Carpentieri, Tuccio Musumeci Genres: Crime, Drama
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Porte aperte Reviews:

This movie had the tension and intellectual underpinning of a Doestoyevski novel. The cinematography was superb, but the main focus of interest was in the acting, particularly that of the judge and the accused.The tenderness and general humanity of the judge and above all his compassion, is an example for all of us, and it is what every human being could strive to be like. A beautiful, poignant and evocative movie, that makes one think and think hours afterwards about the nature of crime and punishment.


Although Leonardo Sciascia may be a name that means nothing to most viewers, he was a brilliant Italian novelist of Sicilian origins who acted as his country's moral consciousness for few decades, writing novels and short-stories that analysed Italy's Mafia, the fascist years, and the recrudescence of totalitarianism during the chaotic 'years of lead' during the '60s and '70s. So famous and extraordinary were the novels of this first-rate storyteller, that many of them were turned into movies, and quite nice in their right.Porte Aperte, based on one of his final novellas, concerns an elderly judge burdened with the responsibility of trying a multiple murderer. It's 1938, the Fascists are in power and Italy is re-enacting the death penalty again, in order to present the regime's strength and zero tolerance with crime. Judge Vito Di Francesco, although not an anti-fascist, isn't ready to simply sentence the defendant to death. Carefully and meticulously, he tries to understand the motives of the assassin and to search a method of reducing the penalty to life imprisonment. Vs him is the regime, which wants an example of swift justice, and the defendant himself, who demands to be executed.This movie, to me, has flaws and weaknesses that need to be quickly addressed. I found the killer's motives to demand the death penalty unclear: was he making a political point? Was he holding the regime's inhumanity to their eyes? I never understood what motivated him to act in such a suicidal manner. I also found it difficult to sympathise with the plight of a boy sentenced to death who himself had killed four people, including his wife, right after raping her. But perhaps a mission of the film was just that – that even the most vicious criminals have a right to live.Otherwise, the film is quite solid and watchable. As a court room drama, the film is slow-paced and introspective rather than frantic and bombastic. There are some fine verbal skirmishes between the judge and the witnesses and the defendant, but otherwise the film focus a lot on his doubts and attempts at finding a loophole to save the boy from execution.Gian Maria Volonté, the nice Italian actor, plays the judge, and needless to tell he brings the gravitas and serenity needed for the character. Although Volonté is mainly known as El Indio from Sergio Leone's For a Several Dollars More, films like Porte Aperte were really the sort of films he preferred to star in. Volonté took seriously the '60s and '70s call to artists and intellectuals to join the revolutionary struggle. Whatever folks may think of that nowadays, it led to Volonté starring in many fine films with a political tinge: Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Todo Modo (another Sciascia adaptation, and hilariously and chillingly prophesying the murder of Italian prime-minister Aldo Moro), Ogro, The Working Class Goes To Heaven, etc. Watching Porte Aperte, however, I was taken aback at his age and frail look. Knowing him mainly from when he was a younger actor, filling his performances with rage and energy, it was a surprise to see him still deliver such a nuanced and strong performance just a several years before his death.


Sober, slow, beautifully photographed study of a murder trial in 1930s fascist Italy. The accused is clearly guilty, but one judge, opposed to the death penalty, is determined to understand the boy and his motives rather than join the rush to execute him and be done with it.Some terrific, subtle acting. But the concepts receive a bit clunky in the last third – more didactic, less nuanced. And while I enjoyed and admired the film, I wasn't really moved by it. That said, I will certainly re-watch it at some point, and moments have really stuck with me over time.



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