Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"My Brother Is An Only Child" -- an oxymoron as the name of a "political" Italian film

My Brother Is An Only Child (“Mio fratello e figilio unico”), directed by Daniele Luchetti, adapted from a novel by Antonio Pennacchi, might seem to fit in to some earlier, much harder-hitting films about 60s and 70s “revolt” in Europe (“The Dreamers” by Bernado Bertolucci comes to mind), and, yes, as I said when I bought the ticket at a Landmark Theater, the title is an oxymoron.

Two brothers, impoverished and waiting for better housing as the movie opens, go through the sixties and seventies: the elder Manrico (Riccardo Scarmacio) joins the left wing Communist movement, whereas the younger Accio (Enrico Germano), has joined a seminary and is drawn to Fascism by a right wing priest. They both will hook up with Francesca (Diane Fleri) who will eventually become the “fall girl”. The early scenes focus on Accio, very young (he seems to be played by a different actor), whose brother wants to literally wash his silly ideas away.

The movie doesn’t really explore the “isms” that well. Accio sounds drawn to Fascism because it seems to satisfy visions of nationalism and virility. They talk about Il Duce (Mussolini) and how Italy would be better off now had the fascists won. (History texts like Brinton’s tell us that Mussolini taxed bachelors). Manrico lives in the union and worker movement, and his activism seems more a groupthink exercise than any personal ideology. Toward the end, both brothers realize how easy it is to be “selfish” and pay lip service to their ideologies, and eventually they have to come back together, despite living as if they were "only children" for much of their lives.

One could say that totalitarian ideologies seek to “rationalize” specific outcomes as related to social justice and wealth distribution, and how people “pay their dues,” without really requiring that much personal responsibility for why one believes the ideology. The film missed an opportunity to show how a demand for "fairness" or "justice" and making everybody "share burdens" can, when misapplied, encourage totalitarian political ideology.

The 1950 World Book Encyclopedia has an excellent entry on "government" with column-wise comparisons of Democracy, Communism, and Fascism.

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