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BEFORE THE REVOLUTION Sansa, right, guards her political prisoner.
BEFORE THE REVOLUTION Sansa, right, guards her political prisoner.

Time Out says

In 1978, four members of the Red Brigade kidnapped Italy's Christian Democrat leader, Aldo Moro, and held him hostage in a rented house for two months. While the prime minister's fellow politicians and the Pope himself demanded his unconditional release, his captors put Moro "on trial" and sentenced him to death.

Marco Bellocchio (Fist in the Pocket) detours around the usual based-on-a-true-story hooey and trades lavish re-creations of key events for a far more scaled-down approach. The abduction itself is never shown, and the action is primarily confined to the suffocating spaces where Moro (Herlitzka) and his interrogators wait for the outside world's response. As seen through the eyes of Chiara (Sansa), the lone female kidnapper, the historical event becomes a test of can-do Marxist ideology versus a guilty conscience. She may dream black-and-white newsreels of Stalinist parades, but Chiara also realizes that the harsh reality of the faction's "revolutionary" act is shaded in queasy charcoal grays.

Bellocchio's fluency with the vocabulary of political thrillers keeps the screws turned tight, but it's his insistence on examining what terror accomplishes that fuels this extraordinary film's urgency. As the inevitable endgame draws near, everyone plays out their parts as if helpless before history; Bellocchio's anger over the fact that nothing has been achieved or apparently learned from this case study makes it feel all the more vital.—David Fear

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