DVD Inspector Montalbano: Collection One
Inspector Montalbano is a series of detective novels written by Andrea Camilleri. Phenomenally popular in their native Italy, the success of the books even prompted Porto Empedocle, Camilleri’s hometown and the basis for the books’ setting of Vigàta, to rename itself Porto Empedocle Vigàta in 2003 in honour of the stories.
‘The Snack Thief’ revolves around the murder of a local businessman, the disappearance of his lover and the killing of a Tunisian fisherman. The eventually linked cases take Montalbano into the world of illegal immigrants, the shady dealings of intelligence agents and the things they are allowed to get away with.
‘The Voice Of The Violin’ begins with the discovery of the body of a beautiful and free-spirited woman who many local men admired for her looks and vibrancy. The disappearance of a high quality violin and the death of the prime suspect lead Montalbano to investigate behind his bosses’ backs to discover the truth.
‘The Shape Of Water’ involves a dead politician linked to a seedy outdoor brothel, leading Montalbano to fight against the hopeless corruption of a world where politics and organised crime are often one and the same, and see to it that innocents framed for the murder are not made to pay for it.
In ‘The Terracotta Dog’, the willing arrest of a tired Mafia don leads to the discovery of a cave used as a weapons smuggling cache, as well as the bodies of a young couple, dead for decades and watched over by the titular statue. Despite being pushed by his superiors to utilise the media attention of the arrest, he is instead more intrigued by uncovering the story of the two bodies and what justice – if any – they can still be granted…
The recent explosion of European police dramas imported to the UK shows no sign of ever dissipating. While recent offerings have mostly been told against the bleak backdrop of Denmark’s seemingly unending winter, it comes as something of a refreshing change to see a series set in the perpetual sunshine of the Mediterranean Sea. For such a small town, Vigàta has a high instance of murder and mystery to it, but also has a stubborn and tenacious police detective whose mission in life is to ensure that justice is carried out.
Montalbano is a fascinating and relatable character, and as he is a presence in pretty much every scene we swiftly get to understand the things that drive him.
Montalbano is a fascinating and relatable character, and as he is a presence in pretty much every scene we swiftly get to understand the things that drive him. Perhaps most comparable to Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, Montalbano has a very flexible attitude towards morality and justice. He is clearly a believer in ‘big crimes’ and ‘small crimes’, and is certainly not above letting people away with the latter so long as their actions haven’t caused anyone harm. For example, when he tracks down a prostitute and gains the required information from her, he lets her go instead of arresting her for solicitation. Similarly, he later discovers a cleaner who stole a valuable necklace from a crime scene he stumbled across did so on account of struggling to support his wife and sick baby. Not only does Montalbano let him off by falsifying the paperwork, showing it was handed in, he also sees to it that the cleaner receives the reward for finding it in the first place. Also, when asked by a suspect why he went through a charade of pretending to be a friend looking for him rather than announcing himself as a police officer, he simply replies “I didn’t want your mother to worry.”
A high moment comes from him actively threatening a secret service agent with exposing details of his cover up, demanding only that he locate the body of a murdered woman to stop her from being forever lost. At one point, however, he crosses the moral event horizon upon finding a gun secreted in the house of a victim’s family. Instead of confiscating the weapon, or simply removing it, he just leaves it where it is, even though, having already solved the case in his head, he knows full well the consequences of doing so.
The well documented passionate nature of the Italians comes through on multiple occasions, particularly with Montalbano’s regular arguments with his long-distance girlfriend, usually on the subject of getting married. An ability to mix humour with irritation appears to be one of the series’ hallmarks, such as when interviewing a reluctant Tunisian woman, Montalbano says to the translator, “Tell her Allah is great and powerful, but if you bullshit me, he will be angry and punish you!”
In short, Montalbano is a man who is invested as much in seeing justice done for victims of crime as he is in punishing those responsible for them. To this end, he actively avoids attaining promotion to assistant commissioner – a role that will take him off the street and chain him to a desk – by passing off the credit to high profile arrests to other officers. Any instances of wrongdoing by his colleagues are met with either outright contempt, or subtle machinations to ensure their misdeeds come to light.
Various strata of society are touched upon throughout the four episodes, from the high society of the aristocrats and politicians living in opulent mansions, to the cramped and squalid communities of illegal immigrants, isolated by their status as outsiders and lack of a common language. The world we visit in the series is, at times, simultaneously both beautiful and depressing, but it is a recognisably real one, and one you’ll want to swiftly return to.
While neither as dark nor as gritty as the recent Scandinavian output similarly offered by BBC4, Inspector Montalbano is nonetheless an engaging collection of stories that keep you hooked from the opening scene to the end credits. A strong foundation that promises much for future collections.
Film: Rubber Release date: 11th April 2011
Certificate: 15 Running time: 82 mins Director:…
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