20 Cigarettes (2010)

27 Aug

With its ironic, devastating and deeply human portrayal of the horrors of war, director Aureliano Amadei’s debut creation 20 Cigarettes is something of a revolution in a genre that has so far been largely ignored by European cinema. A far cry from the gung-ho jingoism of many American films of its kind, this autobiography tells the story of Aureliano (Vinicio Marchioni), a 28 year-old Roman anarchist, anti-war demonstrator and would-be movie director, brought to Iraq by cinema great Stefano Rolla (Giorgio Colangeri) for what he hopes will be his big break. The reality, however, is starkly different. Before he has even had the chance to finish his eponymous packet of 20 cigarettes, Aureliano finds himself entangled in the deadly 2003 suicide bombing of the Italian military police headquarters in Nasiriyah, of which he is the sole civilian survivor.

The treatment of such delicate matter (the bombing was one of the worst in Italian military history, incurring a three-day period of national mourning) is often difficult to achieve without verging on the effusive, but 20 Cigarettes managed to avoid this for the most part, with even the most heart-wrenching of scenes broken up by sarcasm or black comedy. The obligatory romance is there too, but it seems, only by convention, and does not detract from the main intrigue. In an adroit twist, the actual bombing is entirely filmed in free camera style from Aureliano’s perspective; this, coupled with pragmatically graphic blood and gore, allows an agonizingly personal level of insight.

The ideology behind the film is refreshingly simplistic in its treatment of the war. Amadei is only minimally critical of any parties involved, allowing the human tragedy of lives lost, be they soldier or civilian, to speak for itself.

Overall, 20 Cigarettes is a welcome breath of fresh air for anybody wanting to experience the war in Iraq from a uniquely European perspective. Highly recommended.

 

By Nastassja Sheppard-Larsen

 

For ticketing information and session times in your region visit: http://www.italianfilmfestival.co.nz/

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