Feelings of disgust, despair, anger filled me up as the Italian film ‘The Catholic School’ headed to its climax. Based on real events known as the ‘Circeo Massacre’, the plot begins with a male narrator who talks about what it was like to study in an all-boys Catholic School. If someone ends up streaming this title on a whim on Netflix, they are going to be confused as hell about the focus of this casually paced story. “Events leading to the brutal rape and murder of two young teen girls by three privileged schoolboys” is going to be their last damn guess.
Stefano Mordini directs this terribly shallow film told through the gaze of a male narrator. It’s also based on a novel by a male author, and the screenplay is written by, surprise surprise – two men. If not for the fifteen minutes of the actual crime, the following would’ve perfectly summarized ‘The Catholic School’ – horny Italian boys/men try to get laid. I don’t even know what the point of the movie was… and it dangerously tilts towards justifying sexual abuse. In-fact, the makers do blatantly put across the message that the perpetrators of a crime are victims themselves; which might be true in many cases, abuse is a cycle; but young impressionable minds are not going to grasp the nuances of such posturing. By labeling perpetrators as ‘victims’, it’s implied they deserve to be forgiven, no matter what their crime.
Had the film just been about a flawed education system, or about a teen recalling his experiences of studying at an all boys school, it would’ve been fine. A little over 90s minutes long, for most parts, the story does follow one guy talking about his romantic life, his friends and the things they are up to… and then out of nowhere, two different boys, who up until the middle of the film seemed like supporting characters, take center-stage. They lure two girls, take them to a villa, hold them at gunpoint to rape and torture them. A third boy joins them later and the trio eventually murder the girls, but one of them miraculously survives. There’s a hurried climax about how the town is shocked and the movie ends with some facts on the case.
The girls aren’t just treated as ‘pieces of meat’ by their rapists, but also by the makers of the film. While we get enough glimpses into the lives of other supporting characters, we get nothing on the girls – they are reduced to two gullible strangers who were ‘stupid’ enough to go to an unknown house on their first date, instead of going to the movies as planned. The director may as well have put up a poster saying “they had it coming”. The treatment of the crime and aftermath is so fleetingly superficial, it infuriated me as a viewer. What started off as a promising tale, ends up a muddled failure. Too bad, because the young cast is talented and deliver their parts with conviction.
It’s a 2/10 from me.