I’m still not sure whether you should see the Italian drama set in a post-apocalyptic world Mondocane AKA Dogworld. I guess that depends if you’re in the mood for a movie like this. Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, we won’t see many science fiction elements. The movie is entirely focused on the friendship between two orphan teenagers and their life as members of a vicious gang run by ruthless Testacalda. The story is a familiar one, reminiscent of Oliver Twist. And it’s utterly predictable. Still, driven by excellent performances by our young cast, Mondocane can be a refreshing experience.
It offers a look inside the future of Italian cinema and that future looks pretty bright. Sure, many aspects of the movie could be better like the world-building and heavy-handedness when dealing with certain subjects. But the coming-of-age story is powerful enough to make up for that. Additionally, the visuals are excellent starting with beautiful cinematography. As others noticed, I think there was no reason to place the story in the future because our reality now is not very different.
The raw beauty of the small Italian coastal town could not be tarnished by the brutal and unforgiving story. The movie takes time to immerse us into this environment that feels even stranger without much context. Everything is ambiguous and in the air, apart from the characters, of course. We see only tantalizing glimpses of this cruel world where your choice is either to be exploited in society or to join a ruthless gang and be exploited in another way. The same goes for the whole Hot Head’s (Testacalda) secret village plan and other elements of the movie.
Speaking of him, Alessandro Borghi’s magnetic presence and committed performance made Mondocane that much better. I did not recognize him despite watching his last movie On My Skin just a couple of months ago. If the title Mondocane sounds familiar, it’s because of the 1962 movie Mondo Cane. That’s a fucked up pseudo-documentary that has nothing to do with the movie we’re talking about today. Dennis Protopapa and Giuliano Soprano who play the two lead characters, were also excellent.
In the near future, the world has not changed much. The repressive government created walled cities to keep unwanted people out. They live at the margins of society, fending for themselves in a cruel environment. Among them are Mondocane and Pisciasotto, two orphan teenagers dreaming of joining the local gang. And one day, their dreams will come true.
Featuring a running time of almost two hours, Mondocane is a bit slower crime drama you have to be in a mood for. Otherwise, you’ll just find it a mile wide but an inch deep. Unlike, for example, the Brazilian epic City of God also takes place in a similarly nasty world. So, I recommend you watch this movie as a coming-of-age movie. As such, it offers excellent character development and even better performances.
Director: Alessandro Celli
Writers: Alessandro Celli, Antonio Leotti
Cast: Dennis Protopapa, Giuliano Soprano, Alessandro Borghi, Barbara Ronchi, Ludovica Nasti
Fun Facts: Shot on location in Taranto, Apulia, Italy.