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Guest pick of the week: Suburra - Blood Of Rome

Monday 18 May 2020, by Radhika Aggarwal Bassignani

Recently, I have become addicted to the Italian Netflix series Suburra: Blood on Rome.

As a fan of Gomorrah, I met this series with trepidation, wondering if this Roman ’gangster show’ would be a shadow to its Neopolitan counterpart. How wrong I was! It is a compelling exploration of Roman society, and the real-life events of the Mafia Capitale investigation which culminated in 2014.

On the surface, Suburra navigates the intertwining interests of the various factions competing for land in Rome. These include politicians, public authorities, the Church, drug pushers, NGOs, charitable foundations and the police. Some of the myriad plots feel underdeveloped, however, within those, an array of dynamics and interpersonal relationships are beautifully portrayed, including homosexuality within a macho culture (even if matriarchal), the interplay of racism, xenophobia, exoticisation and desire, and familial relations bordering on incest.

Despite highlighting the fact that heterosexual white males have an easier ride in this word, by virtue perhaps of Italy being a matriarchal society, the gender politics of this series are refreshing. All characters have a strong emotional charge and journey. We see them struggle between existing loyalties and forging their own paths. They are set up to lose everything. We watch them descend to the bottom and claw their way out - if they do- inelegantly, utterly despicably but with full expression. It feels wonderfully human to care so much about such ’deviant’ characters.

Needless to say, the acting is sublime. Every scene between Aureliano (Alessandro Borghi) and Livia (Barbara Chichiarelli) gives me goosebumps, leaving my heart in my mouth. Italian cinema veteran Claudia Gerini remains an absolute icon. Spadino, a Gipsy drug-dealer (Giacomo Ferrara) gives a wonderfully charismatic and captivating performance. I’ve found myself adopting many of his mannerisms from wriggling my fingers, to smiling and dancing in the face of antagonism, putting my housemate on edge.

The haunting minimalist score infuses the incredible photography of Rome past and present with a post-decadent flavour. Sensorily, I am so enthralled by Suburra that I am compelled to eat Italian food when I find myself indulging in the latest episode at dinner time. I plan to combine the season 2 finale with ’cacio e pepe’ - the ultimate pairing! My Italian husband (and above-mentioned long-suffering flatmate) is enjoying me spouting Roman slang as my spoken Italian has adopted a slightly different intonation.

The third season, due for release later in 2020, has been confirmed by Netflix as the last. The original film, released in 2015, directed by Stefano Solilma, winning him the Nastro d’argento (said to be the oldest movie award in Europe), is also available to watch on the platform.

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