Mar 12, 2013

Mother's Heart

While I have seen a variety of Brechtian sociopolitical arthouse films that I found to be quite aesthetically and intellectual intriguing, albeit at the same time tending to be emotionally vacant and mostly mundane mental masturbation, including Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend (1967) and The Niklashausen Journey (1970) co-directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Michael Fengler, none of these films have a soul as rich yet tragicomedic as the criminally neglected Italian work Mother's Heart (1969) aka Cuore di mamma directed by relatively forgotten Goombah auteur Salvatore Samperi (Stormtroopers aka Sturmtruppen, The Corruption aka La bonne). A particularly pessimistic yet strangely passionate film centering around a mute Hightalian mother who watches seemingly helplessly and speechlessly as both her family and nation breakdown in an absurdist fashion via stereotyped political pathologies of both the far left and far right persuasion, Mother's Heart is an insanely idiosyncratic film that seems like it was co-scripted by Sicilian ‘ultra-fascist’ philosopher Julius Evola’s more nihilistic brother and directed by a Ginny Wes Anderson were he more wanton and less of a pansy Philosemite. Featuring a suitably somber yet solacing musical score by none other than Italian maestro Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Days of Heaven) and starring the gorgeous Carla Gravina of The Antichrist (1974) aka L'anticristo, Mother's Heart is just as odd of a collection of Guido talent as it is an audaciously avant-garde arthouse work with no contemporaries. Centering around a divorced mother of three with fascist children (led by "Big Brother") who joins an anti-bourgeois terrorist cell and works at a blasphemous yet bookstore that recommends works by the Marquis de Sade to grade school kids, Mother's Heart sardonically shows what happens when a moratory, melancholy mommy who – aside from being far from a Mother Madonna-like figure, is certainly no Mary Magdalene either – gets involved with terrorism and class action warfare while nonchalantly watching her genocidal neo-fascist children come-of-age in a devitalized nation consumed with decadence and on the blatant brink of self-annihilation. Featuring child nudity and volatile, Tourette syndrome spiels coming from prepubescent mouths, as well as dubious situations between adults and children, Mother's Heart – for better or worse – is like nothing you have ever seen before, as the sort of film every kid would love to see, but that most adults would be at a loss to even begin to understand. 

 Depressed divorcee Lorenza Garrone (Carla Gravina) has some serious problems, but she is literally not saying a word as woman who may or may not be mute, but judging by the fact that people talk to her as if they are expecting her to respond, one can only assume that she has made the conscious decision to stop talking, even if her active vocalness could have easily prevented her pernicious eldest son from gassing his little sister, among countless other incidents of baneful behavior from the brazenly bad yet bright young buck. While her three children (the two oldest children being Gravina’s real-life spawn) are indubitably geniuses with intellects that far surpass most adults, they choose some rather peculiar intellectual proclivities that include rocket science, bio-chemistry, Lombroso-inspired Positivist criminology, eugenics, tattooing, hardcore fascist politics, and chemical murder methods. During the beginning of Mother's Heart, we are introduced to the terrible threesome, but especially the eldest, a dark-haired lad named Massimo (Mauro Gravina) who holds down the beautiful babysitter Berta (Rina Franchetti) by force and tattoos a beauteous rose on her wild working-class derrière, which is depicted in an exceedingly aesthetically pleasing montage during the opening credits of the film. A little lad who always sports a nice and shiny Nazi army helmet, ultra-macho preteen Massimo – a "Big Brother" in every sense of the phrase – is undoubtedly the master of his domain and the undisputed “Duce” among his siblings, maid, and babysitter and despite seeming rather intelligent, he also seems to suffer from coprolalia, copropraxia, and coprographia, not to mention sadomasochistic and homicidal tendencies, but he manages to channel all of these ‘character flaws’ in his flagrant fight for fascism.  After all, with a red-handed mother and an absent, albeit wealthy father, who else but macho and martial Massimo is fit to establish order at home. When Massimo notices his baby brother is not upholding the honor of his race and family, he bombards him with the followings slurs, “Enough is enough with this filth…Little wild pig, Negro of the Amazon, vile communist, cannibal, African!” The self-appointed gallant guru of his siblings, Massimo wastes no telling his sister Anna (Monica Gravina) that, “a parasite is a Negro, living on the shoulders of others,” when she asks him what a parasite is. The product of a divorce, Massimo clearly has to compensate for his ineffectual parents' lack of parenting skills and questionable morals. With a seemingly vapid and neglectful mother who can barely hold a job at a degenerate bookstore and who loves her sexy, Sapphic ex-sister-in-law more than her own children, it is only a matter of time before mini megalomaniac Massimo stars killing off his siblings in freak accidents of the stereotypically fascistic kind.

Upon her first appearance in Mother's Heart, it is quite apparent that Lorenza Garrone does not seem to care about anything, especially when it comes to her children and their apparent sadism, because after her son tells her that, “the skin of the butt burns in no time at all. Like paper” after tattooing the babysitter's buttocks, she does not even acknowledge it and merely proceeds to mindlessly watch television with the other Enfants Terribles. As lady Lorenza learns whilst listening to a political minister on TV, “Over time everything works out…we Italians have faith in time…It’s our great savior,” but things prove to be quite the opposite for the mirthless mother of three. After seeing an intriguing young hippie bastard in a pink shirt one day while at work, languid Lorenza finally seems alive and 'in the moment' and wastes no time leaving her job without warning and following the funny fellow around town. Meanwhile, while her children are left by their lonesome, Lorenza’s eldest son Massimo blows up the family cat in a failed rocket launch on the beach, but not before calling his baby brother an,“Ugly rampant pissing brat, shitter, disgusting incontinent, vicious, coprophiliac!,” after the wee blond babe defecates in his favorite swastika-adorned nazi helmet. Losing the fellow in the pink shirt (who happens to be a pinko commie bastard whose terrorist cell the monotone mommy will soon join), Lorenza reverts back to her intrinsic imbecilic state and slavishly goes back to her work, where the quasi-Marxist manager (who stresses social class sensitivity) of the bookstore recommends the Marquis de Sade’s classic lurid libertine novel Justine or the Misfortunes of Virtue (1791) to a mother for her 9-year-old child who is bedridden with mumps, which he describes as a ‘tearjerker,’ but the mother is called back home after hearing about the family cat dying in what her son Massimo eulogizes as being, “one who has died, sacrificed for the triumph of science. Struck down by secular idiocy and brutality.” Lorenza’s sassy ex-sister-in-law Magda Franti (Beba Loncar), who she is apparently carrying on a secret lesbian relationship with (for who knows how long), reveals a lot about the mute mother’s character when she states to her, “When I met you, you were a spoiled child...Taking your shower with your shirt on, I bet. What idiocy! I refused. I began to reject everything starting at age 6. I hate it when they tell me what to do…But you, you stay standing there, you don’t react, you let them guide you. First you were tamed by your father. Then the monster of perfection that is your husband – to watch him is to die from boredom. I’m his sister, but this does not prevent me from seeing him for what he is…You should pick up your life like I do…I say this just for you. You know I love you. Your life is so boring.” Indeed, with increasingly troublesome tragedies brewing at home, including the death of her blond baby boy via dubious bathtub accident and later the death of her daughter Anna via gassing by Massimo, as well as repeated reprimands and her eventual firing from her job at the bookshop, Lorenza gets all the more involved with a super stereotypical, slogan and statistic spouting, communist terrorist group whose members state things like, “The bourgeoisie has no other pleasure than to degrade all.” Ironically, a degraded bourgeois babe herself, Lorenza eventually decides it is time to payback her ex-husband by blowing up his prestigious pharmaceutical factory, thus consummating the physical and financial ruin of her entire family with a big bang.

A sardonic, semiotic window into counter-culture chaos of late-1960s Italy (as well as the Occident in general), Mother's Heart is a titillating and terribly tragicomedic work that uses a mute mommy as a charming and cute cipher for depicting sociopolitical abuse from both extremes of the political spectrum, but being set during the post-WWII era when fascism was already defeated, the film mainly focuses on the lunacy of the left and how such destructive politics are sired by nihilistic and impotent members of the upper-classes and especially the self-loathing  members of bourgeois. Being a bored blonde babe of the less than blessed bourgeois sort, plagued protagonist Lorenza naturally becomes a mindless victim of neo-bolshevik banality of the bomb making and planting sort, thus Mother's Heart ultimately managed to foretell real-life terrorist cells like the Baader-Meinhof Group in West Germany, which was comprised mostly of middle-class college students who were facing increasing feelings of alienation from their families and the capitalistic, 'democratic' way of life. As her son Massimo tells her before blowing himself up in another attempt at launching a rocket for the glory and triumph of Italian national science, “You, Mom, haven’t said anything, so you’re my accomplice. Silence indicates consent. After all, you have profited on all these things that happened. Now you’re free. You have your Magda, who is your love, but you can’t have all the profits for free. If you do not want me to go tell the police it was you who killed your children, you must help me kill Magda, because Magda is corrupting you. She’s a freak. I don’t want you to become like her, degenerate and communist. But we’ll talk again. We’ll have time to talk about everything.” Indeed, the boy, who acts as an exaggerated archetype for fascism as a nationalist extremist whose fascist fanaticism is stirred by an unquenchable desire to restore order in his family, which is symbolic of Italian nation itself, is right as his neglectful mother could have easily prevented her children’s deaths had she been more responsible, but instead, gives into her lesbian decadence and, as a last resort due to her guilt as an "accomplice" of her son's fascism, pinko terrorism. When Massimo perishes, once again a result of his mother’s pathological negligence, Lorenza is finally ready to completely throw away her reasonably plush personal life by becoming a full-time anti-Occidental terrorist and thus destroying her ex-husband’s pharmaceutical empire, thereupon symbolizing via one dysfunctional family, the downfall of Italy as a whole. An allegory for Italy and Europa’s decided degeneration as a result of cosmopolitanism and cultural Marxism, which has only gotten worse since the film’s release with the flooding and colonization of the nation with illegal and mostly hostile aliens from the global South (which began in 1962), the formation of the anti-European “European Union,” and the impending economic collapse, Mother’s Heart, albeit somewhat dated, is ultimately a work that is more important today than when it was first released over four decades ago. With the rise of neo-fascist groups in the Mediterranean like Golden Dawn in Greece and CasaPound in Italy, one can only assume what the true sons of Europe have in store for Mother Europa if the continent experiences a highly probable collapse in the next decade or so. 

-Ty E

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