The Caiman Il Caimano

  • The Caiman (Il Caimano)
  • Director: Nanni Moretti
  • Year: 2006

When Nanni Moretti's film The Caiman (Il Caimano) was premiered in 2006, it met with a mixed reception from British critics. They had been expecting an all-out blunt attack on then-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, surely an obvious and easy target for an independent left-wing filmmaker like Moretti. What they saw instead was a complex multi-layered film about a washed-up film producer who finds himself accidentally making a film about Berlusconi.

After all, what use would a direct attack on Berlusconi have been? By 2006, everybody knew the facts and the rumours behind his rise to power and, as for comedy, how does one parody a national leader who makes obscene hand gestures behind the backs of other leaders (when he's not accusing them of falling for his manly charms)? Having abandoned an earlier project to make a documentary on Berlusconi, in The Caiman Nanni Moretti chose instead to look at the larger picture: the Italian public who had brought Berlusconi to power and were now living under the effects of his government.

The Plot

The Caiman - Il Caimano The Caiman

In The Caiman, Silvio Orlando (The Son's Room) plays Bruno Bonomo, a film producer who hasn't made a film for years. His latest project, a film about Columbus, has collapsed. He's separating from his wife and his studio, which now hosts only TV shopping programs, is on the verge of bankruptcy. At a retrospective showing of one of his B-movies, young filmmaker Teresa presses a copy of her new script into his hand.

Bonomo reads the script distractedly, without finishing it. When he agrees to produce the film (also called The Caiman), he's under the impression that it's a gangster thriller. In fact, it's a serious political piece about the rise of Berlusconi. At first Bruno is horrified by his mistake, but as the film progresses and his life continues to fall apart, he comes round to the idea of making The Caiman after all. By this point, though, he is bankrupt and only able to fund the final scene of Teresa's film.

The Cast

The cast is made up of Nanni Moretti regulars and other film directors: Michele Placido (Romanzo Criminale) plays Marco Pulici, the actor brought in for the role of Berlusconi, and Paolo Sorrentino (The Consequences of Love, The Family Friend) plays the unfortunate husband at the beginning of the film. Franco Caspio, The director who quits the Columbus project, is played by director Giuliano Montaldo. Nanni Moretti only appears briefly, first playing himself, and then again in one of The Caiman's many films-within-the-film.

Those who only know Moretti's work from his award-winning The Son's Room may by surprised by The Caiman, but if you've seen his other work (most likely Caro Diario), you'll recognise Moretti's habit of taking as many different ideas as possible and combining them to make a film that's uniquely his. So, far from being the missed opportunity that some people took it to be last year, The Caiman is an incredible film that takes ideas about Berlusconi, about the responsibilities of filmmaking, about modern Italy and about personal political responsibility and combines them in order to tell its story of Berlusconi's Italy.