Brindisi ’65

← Part of the Collection: Cecilia Mangini
Brindisi ’65

“A real cathedral in the desert” is how Mangini described the newly built Monteshell petrochemical plant, the biggest in the country and the bureaucratic force that brings together the managers and workers – both current and former – put before the camera in Brindisi ’65. This cultural and economic disconnect is conveyed through images of young children fulfilling domestic duties in overpopulated living conditions, as a voice-over reads headlines from the national press announcing the factory’s arrival. Meanwhile, the managerial classes, who have moved South to exploit the region’s desperate work situation, celebrate away from public view, shot in such unflattering, grotesque close-ups that they take on a fisheyed distortion. There, they feast open-mouthed and exchange misogynistic and racist jokes about the local population. Later, a group of workers is asked to comment on their work situation. Only those who appear on the condition of anonymity will tell us what all of them seem to understand: that there are rewards for loyalty, that unionisation leads to forced isolation, and that the factory will always find another desperate worker to replace the dissenter (Daniella Shreir).


“In Brindisi ’65, Mangini once again concerns herself with the modernisation of Italy, here focusing on the newly constructed Monteshell petrochemical plant. The film’s beginning intercuts images of Brindisi, a region once dominated by agriculture, with footage of a snake carved from stone, which comes to act as a portent of the seductive force of modernisation. Wide shots of geometric infrastructure depict the scale and alienation of the factory’s industrial facilities. In later scenes, Monteshell workers are gathered in a small room. Chronically underpaid yet cowed by necessity, they are reluctant to speak honestly about the conditions of work in the factory, aware that challenging the power structures would jeopardise their already precarious employment. Evidencing the scale of social stratification, Mangini contrasts this with scenes of Monteshell’s elites, as they gorge themselves on food and drink. The men pass sexist remarks between one another – ‘Have you ever eaten fruit that isn’t mature?’– while bemoaning rising labour costs. Mangini’s close up footage renders these characters cruel and buffoonish. Here, the present reviewer is reminded of Renée Falconetti as Jeanne de Arc – the antithesis to these creatures – in Carl Theodore Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). Such intimate shots can both distort and exaggerate facial features, wordlessly conveying details about inner character. The juxtaposition of socio-political groups in Brindisi ‘65 recalls the opposition between Jeanne de Arc and her merciless jury.”

Sarah Messerschmidt1


« Dans le cadre du documentaire, ces personnages voyagent aussi, en apprenant le rythme d’un plan séquence – un curieux intervalle, qui leur offre une autre façon de se raconter. Les femmes de la ville de Gravina di Puglia se déplacent dans un espace cinématographique, à l’aube, à travers les champs : le cinéma est une usine mais c’est aussi un jeu, il a du sens tant que les questions qu’il rend audibles ont du sens. Traverser des îles et des pays, du Vietnam à San Basilio – de chez soi on ne voit rien, rien n’est résolu, « on ne prend pas position ». « Pour être libre, je serai toujours une documentariste », car le documentaire permet « l’enquête des phénomènes complexes », voire une remise en question constante du système. On ne voyage pas pour accepter ni pour décrire, le cinéma du réel s’immerge dans le réel pour saboter, si nécessaire, cette réalité « complexe, tordue, avare de satisfactions » que Cecilia a rencontrée dans ces villages, la même qui appartient encore à tant de gens. »

Arianna Lodeserto1

UPDATED ON 08.11.2023