Reality (2012), dir. Matteo Garrone

reality

Reality is more than just a film about reality television: it also acts as a parable on family and obsessive belief. The phenomenon of Big Brother (1997-present) is not merely television, but its sociological implications are fascinating.

For Luciano, Big Brother represents opportunity and fortune: despite his already respectable home, furnished with elaborate lampshades and with the economic power to take his family on holidays, it offers the potential to create the world’s most perfect, happiest family. But the path is not one towards happiness; the myth of fame is the path towards broken families, depression and a shattered community.

There are some interesting parallels to Rocky (1976): in Rocky, we are introduced to an everyman from Philadelphia, whose seemingly impossible journey to winning the title is not out of pure greed, but to make a name for his city and its small, family-owned businesses. Luciano becomes the talk of the town, and as a fishmonger in Naples, is interested in supporting this business. Luciano also achieves his dream – but does he go about it in the right way? Big Brother no longer becomes the path towards his desire, as a stepping stone to a prosperous family, but his end goal.

In another way, it is a satirical take on Christianity – a warning on how modern television becomes a distraction from religion, yet as an empty, meaningless farce. The old myth was religion (immortality and happiness) – the modern myth is the path towards fame. Luciano becomes a charitable saint of sorts, giving his homely possessions and blindly spending on the homeless, beyond the point of sorting their lives out. What will a homeless man do with a lamp or a chair? Later, when he is feeding the homeless at a mission, we see a man walking up wearing expensive headphones – but they are still in the same situation as they were in before. Charity work is a deeply religious, humanitarian act – but Luciano does so in order to be spotted by the programme’s producers, supposed secret agents deeming him a good man worthy of appearing on the programme. An invisible, assumed force offering judgement on one’s acts to gain a reward.

In another scene, Luciano speaks to two women besides a memorial candle, asking if they know if he can do anything more to get into the House – capital H. The women think he means the house of God – offering him that all he needs is faith, and he will be able to enter it. Heaven.

In the final scene, Luciano has made a pilgrimage to the Big Brother house in Rome, and secretly sneaks in. But he remains an invisible force – able to watch through two-way mirrors, the same way the programme’s producers look upon the housemates – and stares into a security camera unnoticed. He has become Scrooge, exempt from the rules of time and space, watching on the people within the house – a Paradise of sorts, full of happiness, music and colour. He has become God.

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