TL;DR – An interesting film, exploring interesting issues, but does not quite come together
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Warning – There is a lot of strobe lighting used in a sequence towards the end.
For me, sports, particularly football is something that I have only really gotten into recently. So it is something that I have tried to explore more, with what makes it tick, what drives it, and what drives people to love it. Well, today we have a film from Italy that explores all of this, but from a different perspective, that of the hardened supporters of the Italian football league.
To set the scene, we open in as a man walk through a crowd where everyone knows his name, as we wander through the town we arrive at a wedding, where flares are lit and everyone is having a good time. Which is of course when we cut to a montage of the more colourful moments in Italian football history, full of riots, flares, and a long rivalry between teams from Naples and Rome, or Napoli and Roma. It here where we see that behind the bravado is a sadness, a sadness of time gone by.
At its core, this is a film about masculinity and family and how they crash together at times. It is a film about radicalisation and generational change, about the nostalgia of the past and the realities of the present. At the core of this is the relationship between Sandro (Aniello Arena) and Angelo (Ciro Nacca). Sandro is part of the old guard the Apaches, a group so famous in the Ultra’s because they got banned from visiting the stadiums because they were that extreme but now others are challenging their position of power. Meanwhile, Sandro is part of the newest group trying to find their place in this new family but end up being the metaphoric and literal punching bag.
All of this makes Ultras a really interesting exploration of identity. What happens when every part of your life is focused on one thing, in this case supporting a football team, at great personal expense. What happens when that thing that has become your entire identity starts to fade or what happens when the group you have been directing all your life chooses new leadership. It is also a case study in the radicalisation of young men trying to find a purpose in life. It hits a lot of the main points including creating a purpose, creating a surrogate family, giving them something to focus their discontent on. It also looks at how groups can splinter because someone feels they are not radical enough.
From a lighting perspective, one of the bonuses of having people set off flares all over the place, is that you can have these stark contrasts that make everything pop off the screen. The film does not use a lot of non-diegetic music throughout the film when it is there is almost a charming though back to the 1980s interspaced with guitar riffs. Overall it is a solidly produced film, with compelling characters, and it doesn’t drag as there is this nifty thematic device that Sandro has to visit a police station each day to sign in.
While it is an interesting film, some moments made things more than a bit frustrating at times. There were some sex scenes throughout the film and nudity, but never once did it feel like it was integral to the plot it instead detracted from it more often than not. Then there was the character that only exists for most of the film so they can make fat jokes about him, each more grating than the next. To add to this, while it trying to have a lot to say about the themes it is presenting, it never quite coalesces.
In the end, do we recommend Ultras? That is a tough one to say. It is a solidly produced film, it has its engaging moments, and it is exploring some really important concepts. It just doesn’t quite come together as well as it could in the end. If you liked Ultras then you might also like Consequences.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Ultras
Directed by – Francesco Lettieri
Screenplay by – Peppe Fiore
Music by – Liberato
Cinematography by – Gianluca Palma
Edited by – Mauro Rodella
Production/Distribution Companies – Indigo Film & Netflix
Starring – Aniello Arena, Ciro Nacca, Antonia Truppo, Salvatore Pelliccia, Simone Borrelli, Daniele Vicorito, Alessandra D’Elia, Gennaro Basile, Antonio Russo, Pasquale Cerza, Salvatore Arena, Giuseppe Cirillo, Simone Iapigi, Andelo Caianiello, Redjep Saitov, Roby Saitov, Giovanni Sanchez, Noemi Sales, Pasquale Esposito, Giuseppe Cioffi, Giorgia Piccirillo, Lisa Chiniaieva, Erika Punziano, Vincenzo Fabbrocino, Flora Faliti, Antonio Gargiulo, Mirana Minichino, Diana di Paolo & Pia Letizia Contanzo
Rating – Around an Australian: MA15+;