Lord Of Ants
Directed by Gianni Amelio
Rating: *** ½
Just because the film’s protagonist Aldo Braibanti is a myrmecologist, it doesn’t follow that the film should have its title dedicated to ants. Aldo was a lot of other things, an academician , a playwright, thinker.
He was also gay in the Italy of the 1960s which made him a sitting target for the Fascist regime. They hounded and persecuted him.
Aldo didn’t defend himself in court. He didn’t need to. Only the guilty need to speak. The charge against Aldo of having sex with two of his male students didn’t stick. As played by the Italian actor Luigi Lo Cascio, Aldo Braibanti is a man of firm convictions. He is not afraid of being convicted for unnatural sexual practices.His silences speak louder than words.
What, he says, could be more natural than love? The object of his adoration is his handsome student Ettore Tagliaferri(played by Leonardo Maltese with a skilled synthesis of yearning and wisdom) who is dragged out of bed from his mentor’s home , institutionalized and subjected to brutal electric shocks, with his mother’s approval, if you will .She hopes these shocks would “cure” her son. Other shocks await him, and she.
Lord Of The Ants is not only about intellectuals and homosexuals. It is also about mothers and their conditional/unconditional love. While Aldo’s mother loves him unconditionally and accepts him for what he is, Ettore’s mother fights against his natural impulses.
Women play an important part in this tender, harsh brutal and brittle film on gay love. Not only the two mothers of the homosexual couple, but also Sara Serraiocco as a journalist and a gay rights’ activist who stands up for Aldo to be released from imprisonment.
This brings me to the character of the charismatic behatted journalist Ennio Scribani(Elio Germano) who fights his magazine editor to print stories why Aldo Braibanti had ever right to what he wanted to do in the privacy of his home.This character is way too cinematic, much too convenient peg to hang the plot’s liberalism.
At times The Lord Of The Ants reminded me of Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh. But most of the time, this is a fiercely independent film, liberated of the tropes that accompany queer cinema.