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Werner Schroeter: Magnificent Obsessions

Saturday, February 23, 2013
6:00 p.m. The Kingdom of Naples
Werner Schroeter (West Germany, 1978)

(Il regno di Napoli). Schroeter, at one time both a student in and of the city of Naples, created a work monumental in its concern for the unending poverty (when not of finances, then of spirit) offered to the city's vast underclass. The Kingdom of Naples tells of a Neapolitan slum community over a thirty-year period following the war, focusing on the disparate fortunes which lead one family member into the petit bourgeoisie, another into the proletariat, still another into prostitution, one to an early death, another to late madness. Other families make their own trades, their own compromises with poverty (one mother sells her daughter for a sack of flour) in this tale told in sixteen episodes, most based on true stories. In his first 35mm feature, Schroeter's intensely operatic style is filtered through realism (specifically, Italian neorealism); the filmmaker interrupts the action in the manner of Brechtian epic theater. But The Kingdom of Naples is no less passionate for this. At moments the film is as hallucinatory as its text is socially profound.

• Written by Schroeter. Photographed by Thomas Mauch. With Antonio Orlando, Maria Antonietta Riegel, Christina Donadio, Dino Mele. (132 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, Blu-ray, From Munich Filmmuseum, permission film & kunst)