Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion – Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Elio Petri – 1970)

Qualunque imposizione faccia su di noi, egli è servo
della Legge e come tale sfugge al giudizio umano

Whatever imposition is brought upon us, it is served
by the law and as such escapes human judgment

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Gian Maria Volontè’s pounding tirade

In this Oscar-winning masterpiece by director Elio Petri, a head of homicide department in Rome is testing the boundaries of his authority to override a murder he himself committed. Played by the incredible Gian Maria Volontè, after many roles as the villain in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, in this film you’d be amazed by his transformation into an urban mastermind of a murder that no matter how many clues he leaves for his own team to find and outright admissions he makes – his powerful position provides the ultimate shelter.

The film boasts a signature soundtrack by maestro Ennio Morricone, that provides a tense texture with persistent tempo to support on one hand the authoritative police inspector as he toys with his team, the media and even a harmless passerby, and the ongoing investigation – on the other. Interestingly, the rationale for this wry game, as the inspector puts it, is not to mislead his team but to prove his intact above-suspicion status. Above is a fine sample of this classic score.

Worth noting also is the solid delivery of Florinda Bolkan, in the role of Augusta Terzi, the inspector’s lover that can exude both sensual vulnerability, and determination that can easily make cracks in the otherwise bullet-proof power presentation of the inspector, thus bringing him into utter submission. In essence, her role plays a focal point for the whole plot as she constantly populates the inspector’s thoughts, triggering flashbacks to their shared wild relationship.

This photo is a good capture of her intoxicating power over the inspector, pulling him into her web of mind games, teases that leads into a final destruction, while all along using his power as police inspector to supply endless contexts for role-playing the victim vs. the authority:

Such a bold social criticism of corrupted officials you will also find in the earlier work of Francesco Rosi’s Hands over the City – Le Mani Sulla Città (1963). You can see even the use of the same imagery as the potent official sitting in his desk with a background map of his jurisdiction:

Gian Maria Volontè as the powerful police inspector
Gian Maria Volontè as the powerful police inspector
Rod Steiger as the ruthless, power-hungry real-estate speculator
Rod Steiger as the ruthless, power-hungry real-estate speculator

By Shlomi Ron

Visual marketing guy with a penchant for fine Italian cinema.