Reality could not be more different from Matteo Garrone’s previous film, mafia drama Gomorrah, although it does share the same neorealist aesthetic, showing once again another crude and sincere image of Italy.
Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a Neapolitan fishmonger and small-time hustler who likes to entertain his huge family. He does not think too much of his comedy skills until he meets local celebrity Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a former contestant on the Italian Big Brother. Struck by his celebrity status and wealthy life style, Luciano decides to participate at the local auditions in a shopping centre thinking that the reality show could be his chance to turn his life around.
After a second call to audition in Rome, Luciano is convinced he has a place in the house. Envisioning a life full of money and work commitments he sells his shop and waits patiently for the call. When it does not arrive he becomes totally obsessed with the show, believing he is been spied by undercover agents sent by the television network to assess his suitability and slowly losing touch with reality.
As in Gomorrah, Garrone’s interest lies more with showing the real world using the characters and the locations to create the film’s atmosphere. Marco Onorato’s cinematography and use of hand-held camera helps capture the action within the story and enhances the wonderful performances, especially Arena and Loredana Simioli, who plays Luciano’s wife Maria.
Reality is more than a satire on reality television; it is about the delusion of people, the need to escape reality when there’s nothing else around by entering an alternative one provided by the TV. Garrone plays the story wonderfully by going from comedy to drama so that towards the end laughs seem almost inappropriate.
The decline of society is evident not only when trash TV becomes too big a part of people’s lives but also when it seems to represent the only way out. As Luciano descents deep into his fantasy world, the word ‘reality’ assumes many different meanings, the choice of which one we stand for is left to us.
Silvia has awarded Reality four Torches of Truth.