“Confessions of Police Captain to the District Attorney” is a political drama representing itself to the viewers as a detective story about the Sicilian Mafia in action, but step by step it transcends this genre and becomes a criticism of society which not only tolerates but encourages corruption of the state officials as a resourceful way for them to enrich themselves. For the (wealthy) businessmen who make their fortune on the tax-payers and on their despotic domination over the labor to offer state officials money is as normal as for the administrators and politicians to accept it with gratitude. Everybody knows that this is happening and yet everyone takes it as inevitable state of things. Is the film describing Sicily of 70s in the 20th century or US in 21st century?

Only three persons in the film are shown to have problem with the existence of under-legalized, legalized and over-legalized corruption described in the film – a labor activist – a sort of a lonely wolf trying to awaken the working people to the awareness of how enslaved they’re by their bosses’ greed (he is very quickly eliminated), the police captain Bonavia (the American actor Martin Balsam in one of the best performances of his career) who became so disheartened in his fight with the invincibility of the wealthy profit-makers who rule the economic life in the country, that he decided to take justice into his own hand, and the District Attorney (Franco Nero) who is passionately dedicated to justice, but is very naive in how he perceives the functioning of the legal system – he fetishizes the Law without understanding that laws are easily detoured if to use the money-routes.

The conflict between the District Attorney and the Police Captain eventually opens the eyes of the honest but with dogmatically streamlined thinking Jurist, but at the cost of Bonavia’s life. May be, his death (his murder in the prison by the hands of poor worshipers/servants of the rich money-maker) will awaken the young Attorney to the understanding that corruption violates the Law without directly/demonstratively violating it, but by competently detouring it.

Damiani shows how the pompous machinery of a democratic juridical system is easily put out of function by the wealthy entrepreneurs who are not (ideologically) challenging it but just neutralizing it for their benefit, and this is how life of the population becomes more and more degraded as a result. He also shows that economic pauperization of the majority takes place in parallel with encouraging freedoms in the realm of private lives (sexual license, drugs, pornography, self-absorption, etc.), with stimulation of cheap consumerism and superstar-worshiping – instead of mass education for better understanding of life.

While being limited by the narrow frames of detective story genre, Damiani’s film is one of the first which described how administrators, politicians and jurists collaborate with the money-makers and neglect genuine interests of the population at large. One of the final episode of the film is – criminals who are “working for wealthy masters” and serving their reduced prison time, are enjoying in the jail an entertaining movie with mindless laughter, while the wounded captain Bonavia is dying squeezed amongst them.

Damiano Damiani, 1922 - 2013
Damiano Damiani, 1922 – 2013

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Argument between a dogmatist and an essentialist – a “fundamentalist” believer in Law and the one who knows reality too well

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The District Attorney (on the left – Franco Nero) is not a real idealist – he is idealist of dogma, believer in the letter of the Law, while the police detective is a person with understandng of the reality. Bonavia (Martin Balsam) is a genuine moral idealist, an honest fighter against immorality armed with criminality. The composition of the shot emphasizes the stable position of the young attorney, but risky position of the police investigator (represented, as if, at a edge of a cliff).

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May be, the death of the real moral idealist, an honest and decent person will make the young District Attorney more sceptical about the social functioning of the democratic legal system, and for this reason – more demanding of it. By showing uncomfortable posture of Franco Nero-District Attorney, who, as if, turning away from his own habitual way of looking at reality and is trying to see something new, the shot suggests that he, may be, indeed, starts to understand things in a less orthodox way.