Well it is the late May bank holiday as I write this, so figured it would be a good opportunity to cross off one of the very long films that are left. Rocco and His Brothers has been staring at me for a long time due to it being almost three hours and technically being an Italian neo-realist sports movie. The sports nature of the film, it would turn out, is important for plot but not exactly what would be considered a defining characteristic.
As Italy was continuing to modernize following the Second World War, there was a movement of families from the poorer south to the richer north. We meet such a family whose matriarch and four sons move up to Milan to join the elder son who has already started to put down roots. The film deals primarily with how the middle and second oldest brothers (played by Alain Delon and Renato Salvatori) deal with the change and how both are frankly incompatible.
Let’s just get this out of the way, Simone (played by Renato Salvatori) is up there with one of the worst film characters I have seen. By worst, I am not talking poorly written, acted or conceived – but as in I cannot remember the last single character I saw onscreen where I was wishing them dead so consistently.
He steals, rapes, blackmails and murders and just expects his brothers to just take care of everything for him – knowing they won’t want to burden their mother with his many sins and even when she does find it out, she will back him rather than criminal justice. Simone and his relationship with Rocco is the main thread of this melodrama, with the other three brothers taking on supporting roles. Also important is Nadia, a prostitute who gets caught in a terrible triangle where one side offers love and the other offers misery.
As a film, it is long but it is also incredibly well made. I would have loved to have seen these relationships play out for longer as part of a mini-series as I feel there is more to know about two of the three brothers who don’t get as much screen time. Since it is nearly, three hours long, it is definitely a good idea to put in some sort of intermission – even if it is just to take stock of what you are going through watching this family unit.