THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL. (2021) DIRECTED BY STEFANO MORDINI. INSPIRED BY THE BOOK BY EDOARDO ALBINATI. STARRING BENEDETTA PORCAROLI AND FEDERICA TORCHETTI.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Wow. This based-on-a-true-story Italian language film set in the mid-Seventies is a really grim watch. For the first hour and a quarter, say, it’s just a mish-mash of a story about the most awful privileged rich white boys you could ever have the misfortune to meet, and how they practically get away with murder in their exclusive Catholic school for rich boys, which is located in Rome.
The sense of privilege and entitlement just radiates off these late-teenage boys like the stink of rotten fish, with heartfelt apologies to the poor fish, who can’t help it. These boys treat women like possessions, to be used, abused and then tossed aside like so much rubbish. It’s horrible to watch.
Then, when they get in any trouble, Mummy and Daddy, who are filthy rich, bale them out and there are never any consequences for their wrongdoings, unless you count the odd slap from a rich father when he loses patience with the little scut he calls sonny boy.
We are told by the narrator, Edoardo Albinati, that consequences for misbehaviour were so randomly applied that the boys chose to go ahead and do exactly what they wanted to do and just take their come-uppance if- and when- it ever arrived.
These rich boys have sex willy-nilly with their friends’ mothers and sisters, all of whom are inter-changeable gorgeous European women with the long dark hair and terrific bone structure. The boys are brought up thinking that the world and everything in it, including the women, is theirs for the taking. Sort of like a bunch of mini-Scarfaces. If no-one ever tells them any different, how are they meant to know right from wrong? The parents and the titular Catholic school are jointly at fault here.
The film is confusing as hell, jumping between the points of view of various boys who all look the same, and it’s divided up into equally confusing ‘time chapters’ such as ‘six months earlier’ to ‘130 hours earlier.’ I mean, what the hell…? It was difficult to make out, not only which boy was which, but which female they were f**king was which. Was it someone’s mum, someone’s sister or someone’s bloody granny? Who knows?
Anyway, the last half hour of the film sees the crime happening, the true-life crime from 1975 to which the whole movie is leading up, the crime that became known as the Circeo Massacre. In September of that year, two beautiful unsuspecting young Italian students, Donatella and Rosaria, are lured to a fabulous seaside villa by two of the boys from the school.
Once there, they are horribly raped, beaten, bullied, humiliated, taunted and tortured by the two boys, who are later joined by another guy whose father apparently owns the villa they’re using to commit their nasty crimes in. The third guy is supposed to be just out of prison as well. Such nice company they keep, right?
Angelo Izzo, Andrea Ghira and Gianni Guido are the mens’ names, though I use the word ‘men’ ironically. They’re not men. They’re cowardly little bully boys who use their superior physical strength to intimidate and frighten defenceless women. Real men don’t seem to feel the need to prove to themselves and their friends that they’re tougher than women or even other men.
I don’t know how any of them expected to get away with it. It’s probably that awful confidence they have in them that makes them feel that there is no price to pay when you’re a rich handsome young guy and your dad can buy off the police. And the school.
One of the girls will be dead after their torturous ordeal, the other as good as. And all because a bunch of lads developed toxic masculinity in the environment that more or less demanded it of its young men. Violence is what is expected of the boys in this environment, the narrator tells us. To be a man is to be violent.
And was justice done, in the end? Sadly, only partially. One of the perpetrators went on to kill two more women after he was released from prison for his part in the Circeo Massacre. As good a candidate for Throwing Away the Key as I’ve ever come across.
Apparently the Italian carabinieri were not exactly ruthless in pursuit of justice for these two lovely young women. Were palms greased, as they undoubtedly had been at the school? I don’t know. One good thing came out of this whole convoluted mess, and that was that Italian law finally allowed that rape was a crime against the person, and not just an outrage against public morality.
Public morality? One wonders how the Italians had been used to prosecuting rape cases in the past. Did a ton of perpetrators walk free? Don’t tell Donatella Colasanti that rape is not a crime against the person. That’s exactly what it is; a crime against the person, and the person’s body, mind and spirit, a crime against the person’s very soul and psyche. Never mind your public morality.
Is this a good film? I don’t even know. Turn to Netflix and see for yourself, but be warned: as I said at the start, it’s a grim watch.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
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