Roberto Saviano’s best-selling exposé of the Neapolitan Mafia is brought to the small screen in an adaptation that takes on Breaking Bad and The Wire for the title of TV’s most brutal show and wins by several knockouts.
First published in 2006, Saviano’s account of a criminal syndicate blew the whistle on a whole raft of nefarious practices that the mob wanted to remain secret. Forced to flee after receiving death threats from the Mafia, he now lives in an undisclosed location.
A feature film adaptation was released in 2008. Critically acclaimed, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or and a Golden Globe and won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Streamlining the material to fit the movie’s running time, Saviano knew that he had enough stories left over for TV series.
Presented with the unique opportunity of translating this wealth of unused accounts of life within a criminal organization, the screenwriters took two years to craft final drafts of the scripts that were true to the source material and had the potential to create visually compelling and emotionally potent television. Cameras started rolling once the entire creative team realized they had successfully captured the spirit of Saviano’s book without compromising the integrity of his journalism.
Complex, gritty and intense, Gomorrah’s authenticity sets this series apart from any other gangster drama on television. Sourced from first hand observations of criminal practices and the internal machinations of a Mafia-style organisation, the show offers a unique window into life within the mob. All incidents on screen are based on real life occurrences but some dramatic licence has been applied to compress timelines or combine events.
Resolute in their commitment to accuracy, the director and producers were determined to shoot the series in and around the Naples suburb Scampia. Substituting a district nearer to any of the major Rome film studios may have lowered production costs but it would have been a betrayal of the audience’s trust, shattering any pretence of a commitment to conveying a sense of reality.
More than a dramatic backdrop, the crime ridden district is a core character in the series. A setting from which a life free of Mob influence is impossible. Socially and economically the area is dependent upon the proceeds of illegality. High unemployment, limited access to educational opportunities, availability of drugs, and a crumbling infrastructure has allowed the Camorra to flourish. Demonstrating the regional government’s ineptness in dealing with the tide of lawlessness, local policing did not attempt to establish a presence in the area until 1987 when the first police station was opened.
Gomorrah brings to life the rise and fall of a Camorra syndicate with the passion and magnitude of a Greek tragedy, albeit a particularly bloody one. The series zooms in on the intricacies of day-to-day life within the clan revealing it to be a never-ending succession of power struggles and betrayals. From foot soldier to Mob boss, each level of the hierarchy is captured with fly on the wall levels of realism.
Far removed from The Sopranos and Lilyhammer, compelling pages of undercover journalism have been distilled with great care into the best new series of 2014. Peeling away false glamour, the expansive narrative explodes Hollywood myths about the Mafia and delivers an authoritative account of Italy’s criminal underworld. A world where business deals may settled by a game of Russian Roulette, footsoldiers are dispatched on an errand never quite knowing if they are being sent to their death, and war may erupt with a neighbouring gang without warning.
Gomorrah – The Complete Season One can be ordered from Amazon: