Spaghetti TV Crime Fiction

Curator's Note

The successful adaptation of Giancarlo De Cataldo’s novel Romanzo Criminale, both in film and in television, has sparked a new trend in Italian media production. A cinematic version of the novel was directed by Michele Placido in 2005. Then, in 2008, the tv series Romanzo Criminale – la serie aired on Italian television, produced by Sky Cinema. Romanzo tells the story of the rise and fall of the Banda della Magliana, a criminal organization based in Rome, particularly active during the 1970s and the early 1990s. The show has had two seasons on air, and has attracted the attention of Italian critics as being the most innovative series ever in terms of style and inspiration. With hand-held cameras, fast paced editing, realistic scenography, crude language, explicit violence, and an excellent soundtrack Romanzo Criminale – la serie looks different than any previous Italian series and echoes the gangster films of Scorsese and Coppola.

In one sense, we can describe Romanzo as "convergent" because it mixes a variety of television genres. It is a criminal novel that features the point of view of the villain, as in a mob film (it draws inspiration from American series like The Sopranos), and draws on references to other subgenres ranging from thrillers, film noir, prison movies, true crime, comedy (particularly through its use of the romanesco dialect) and “polizziottesco” (Italian 1970s-era tough cop and crime B-movies). At the same time, Romanzo is foremost a melodrama. Many storylines focus on the characters’ personal traumas and dilemmas, from their poor family roots and their search for social emancipation, their inability to find love, and their problems with friendship in the struggle for leadership. Introspection prevails on the historical perspective.

In another sense, Romanzo is convergent because it stands at the intersection between past and future media texts. It continues the story from the novel and film and now extends into other areas of media production and consumption. The success of the franchise Romanzo Criminale is in fact generating many descendents, such as recent biopics Vallanzasca. Gli angeli del male (a film directed by Placido), and Faccia d’angelo. Una storia criminale (a tv series produced by Sky Cinema). Can we say that with Romanzo Criminale we may be seeing the beginning of a “spaghetti crime fiction” new wave in Italian television?

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