The Inner Cage (Ariaferma)
Directed by Leonardo Di Costanzo
Starring Toni Servillo, Silvio Orlando, Fabrizio Ferracane
In Italian with English subtitles
Showing nationally as part of the Italian Film Festival
The Inner Cage opens with a group of Italian prison guards celebrating the last days of their prison’s functioning. Through their banter it is established that the most senior officer, Gaetano (Toni Servillo) is regarded as soft-hearted by the rest of the team and that another guard is tough, mean-spirited and handy with a gun.
This is just the opening gambit of a subtle and complex study of human psychology that keeps you guessing until the very last sentence spoken on screen. There are many red herrings twisting and turning in this film, but the engagement is worth it.
To their consternation, the guards are told that, due to a bureaucratic stuff up, twelve prisoners will remain in the gaol pending vacancies in other facilities. A skeleton staff will remain.
And so, a wary relationship develops between those stranded in this crumbling edifice beset with official ineptitude. Questions arise: who is controlling the situation and what culture will prevail, compassion or violence, and which side will initiate it?
Among the prisoners there is somewhat of a mirror image hierarchy to that among the guards. Just as there is a callous guard there is a dangerous, psychopathic inmate. Similar to the seasoned, commanding officer there is a mafia don exercising leadership who is quite capable of sparking a riot or quelling one.
The suspense builds as the power relationships evolve. The risks of escape, suicide, violence and even murder heighten.
Ultimately, it is a rewarding and realistic examination of human integrity in circumstances where you would least expect to find it.
[Watch the trailer here.]