Film review: The Lord of the Ants by Gianni Amelio starring Luigi Lo Cascio and Elio Germano 

Gianni Amelio‘s film The Lord of the Ants is a poignant and emotionally charged drama based on the true story of Aldo Braibanti, an Italian poet, expert in myrmecology (the science of ants), philosopher and playwright, who was imprisoned in 1968 due to a crime called ‘plagio’, a sort of brainwashing that was removed from the list of crimes two years later. Inherently he was jailed, because he was gay in a reality where a fascist-era anti-gay law still dominated. The film is a powerful commentary on the societal norms and prejudices prevalent in Italy at the time, and the deeply entrenched homophobia that led to the persecution of individuals like Braibanti.

the lord of the ants movie by Gianni Amelio with Luigi Lo Cascio and Monica Costa posing for mums magazine

The film opens with a shot of Braibanti (played by Luigi Lo Cascio) teaching a class of young students, including Ettore, a 20 year old man who seemed for the era a young person barely out of his teens. Braibanti and Ettore share an intimate and affectionate relationship, which is viewed with suspicion by some of the other students and eventually leads to Braibanti’s arrest. The film explores the complex dynamics of their relationship, as well as the larger societal and cultural issues that contributed to their persecution.

The story is told from the perspective of a young journalist, played by Elio Germano (personally sensitive to this issue), who is tasked with investigating the case and uncovering the truth behind Braibanti’s arrest. The journalist is initially sceptical of Braibanti and his relationship with Ettore, but as he delves deeper into the case, he begins to understand the complexities of their situation and the injustices that they faced.

One of the most striking aspects of The Lord of the Ants is its portrayal of the societal and cultural norms that contributed to Braibanti’s arrest. The film is set in the late 1960s, a time of political and social upheaval in Italy, but it is also a time when homosexuality was still deeply stigmatised and criminalised. The film depicts a society that is largely intolerant of same-sex relationships, and in which individuals who engage in such relationships are viewed as deviant and abnormal.

The film also explores the role of the media in shaping public opinion and perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices. The journalist who investigates Braibanti’s case is initially sceptical of him, but as he uncovers more information, he begins to see the flaws in the prosecution’s case and the biases of the media coverage. The film highlights the importance of independent and courageous journalism in exposing the truth and challenging the dominant narrative.

The performances in The Lord of the Ants are exceptional, particularly those of Luigi Lo Cascio and Elio Germano. Lo Cascio gives a nuanced and powerful performance as Braibanti, capturing the complexity and vulnerability of his character with remarkable sensitivity. Germano, in turn, brings a sense of urgency and passion to his role as the journalist, conveying the importance of the truth and the dangers of censorship and repression.

Visually, the film is also stunning, with beautiful cinematography and evocative imagery that captures the mood and atmosphere of the time. The use of light and shadow, as well as the vivid colours and textures of the Italian landscape (both in the Pianura Padana area and in Rome), create a vivid and immersive world that draws the viewer in and enhances the emotional impact of the story.

Overall, The Lord of the Ants is a powerful and thought-provoking film that explores important themes of love, prejudice, and justice. It is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of persecution and oppression, and a reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of overwhelming adversity.


Rating: 10/10

I watched it twice in two days!

Watch this space for my exclusive interview with Luigi Lo Cascio during the Cinema Made in Italy in London.


The trailer

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Cinema Made in Italy opens its 2023 edition in London 9th – 13th March 2023

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