Regretfully I can’t remember the local blog which I came across yesterday afternoon, since reading as much blogs as possible has become a weird obsession of mine in the last months.
Well one of these local blogs was promoting the activities, which were being organised at St. James Cavalier which coincided with the celebration of World Book Day. One of the events was for this evening and a quick glance at the mobile made me realize that I was still in time to make it there. At 21.00 they were showing the film Il-Gagga and I have been telling myself to go and watch it since it was launched last march but at that time I was in Gozo, but anyhow to cut the story short I went to watch it and it is not so over-hyped as I thought but I do believe that it deserves to be promoted more and I look forward to buy it on DVD when it will be available from studio seven.
This movie shows that the Maltese do have the talent to produce a quality movie worthy of the attention of true movie-lovers. Rather than focusing on stunts and action sequences or soap opera style drama, renowned Maltese director Mario Azzopardi had made a film in 1971,by then University students, based on a famous Maltese novel "Il-Gagga ta' Frans Sammut", which concentrated on good story telling skills and convincing acting.
The film portrays the life in the 60s in pre-independence days, when people were hopelessly blinded by religious and political fanaticism; it is a movie about the superficial forms of religion and the guilt, restrictions and prejudices these bring with them. Rather than bringing comfort, religious divisions are a force to be contended with, as personified by parish priest, who looks the very picture of an irritated god. A lot of divisions abound in the film, social, political, class divisions, which interweave to create a stifling web. The movie’s young leading role, Fredu, must struggle to find himself in the centre of prejudices and religious obsession by which he is increasingly whispering and hearing voices bombarding him. He has to tolerate ranting, heartbreak, hallucinations and tragedy, until the time comes when he does not care about anything anymore
There are episodes that have a distinct feel of black humour in them, like the scene in which a woman openly flirts with a man in her husband’s house as the husband looks on miserably. In the background, a radio presenter’s voice announces that the day’s discussion would be on marriage and the discussion would be carried out by a priest and a nun. The film also includes a couple of frightening scenes, in which Fredu, overcome by fear and guilt, he imagines stabbing his pregnant girlfriend’s womb. In another provocative scene, he is surrounded by an orgy of people with ugly masks, tumbling over him.
This, then, is a story about the restrictions of living in a tightly knit community where the restrictions of religion, politics and class interweave create a never ending black tunnel. It is a study into the psyche of what it meant to be a young man at the time and how Maltese society seemed to arrest any form of development in a thinking man. This was a controversial film in its time, which I am told was banned locally and only premiered this year, when it was produced in 1971, for the same previously mentioned fanatical reasons. While I was at SJC I heard that Mario Azzopardi left Malta a few years after its completion. The movie was completed while he was in his final year at university and cost him his exams, as he had to repeat them all the following year. A few years later, his play, Sulari fuq Strada Stretta was censored at the Manoel Theatre.
But apart from its artistic merits, Il-Gagga is also wonderful for the sense of nostalgia with which every Maltese person will view it. Not only does the whole island somehow seem to have contributed to it in some way or another not just the well-known names like Josephine Zammit Cordina, Karmen Azzopardi or Charles Coleiro but also a much younger Rosette Fenech, wonderfully cast as an English-speaking typist, Roger Degiorgio as the Italian boyfriend of one of the typists, but Malta itself also looks much younger, much more rural. There are scenes shot in familiar roads which, although much-changed are still recognizable, as well as scenes shot in band clubs, churches, and Pjazza Fra Diegu in Hamrun
It is tragic that many Maltese still do not appreciate the quality of such movies. This is why some really excellent movies don't make it past the first week in the cinemas, and mindless crappy movies last for weeks on end.
It is also a pity that this particular movie cannot be fully appreciated by a foreign audience, since the director seems to assume the audience is knowledgeable of certain aspects of the local lifestyle.
I came up with lot of conclusions after seeing this controversial masterpiece but the one that struck me most thru the whole 75 minutes running time of the film is that society today lacks the good things that were present during those days yet funnily enough the bad thing of those days which were taboo are still wrecking down today society... A film to watch and collect.