New Internationalist

Good morning, night

December 2004
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Looking over an apartment for rent, Chiara and Ernesto seem distracted and tense. Primo and Mariano, who help them move in, avoid being seen. Primo, a carpenter, builds a wall across a back room, with a tiny entrance through a bookshelf. They are all members of the Red Brigade, and are planning a kidnapping. The wall hides a prison cell – to hold Aldo Moro, Italy’s prime minister. Good morning, night is based on real events – in 1978 the Brigade captured Moro, after killing his police escorts, and held him for eight weeks. It’s not a thriller or an action movie – the kidnapping happens off-screen – but something more resonant. It simply focuses on how the group and their victim react to their close confinement and wider political events. The operation is a political disaster, mobilizing wider support for the Christian Democrat Government. Moro, more valuable as a martyr, is abandoned by his own party.

His captors are idealists, holding to their principles, but shaken by events and their affection for Moro, a sad, dignified old man. Mariano, the leader, spouts abstractions but allows Moro to keep a diary and write letters to his family. Chiara dreams about him, freed from his cell, wandering the apartment and examining their books, even walking free. But there was no way out, not for Moro, not for the kidnappers.

Bellocchio has a track record. For 40 years he’s made films attacking Italy’s social institutions – church, army, state. His point here is simple. To change the world you need to act with humanity, not repress it.

Malcolm Lewis

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 374 This column was published in the December 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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