In “La Scorta”, the Mafia’s power is visible while the men who wield it remain hidden in the mists of obfuscation that characterize Sicilian politics. The story of “La Scorta” is based on the experience of Judge Francesco Taurisano, who was removed from his post in Sicily due to “irreconcilable differences” with the locals. When his fictional counterpart, Judge Michele de Francesco (Carlo Cecchi), enters the Trapani courthouse for the first time, director Ricky Tognazzi uses an arresting visual metaphor to illustrate the challenges the judge will face. The camera slowly pans up to reveal a multi-level staircase with a dizzying array of intersecting lines, representing the impenetrable web of bureaucracy and corruption that awaits de Francesco.
The judge investigates a water privatization scheme that involves collusion between the local Mafia don and well-connected businessmen and politicians. When the case is taken away from him, de Francesco turns to his four trusted bodyguards. They act as de Francesco’s private detective force but realize they are Mafia targets, as well. Chief bodyguard Andrea Corsale (Enrico Lo Verso) has to send his family away after his wife receives threatening phone calls. The judge’s daughter, meanwhile, is the victim of an attempted assassination that kills one of the bodyguards. The resources of the police are no match for the forces arrayed against them.
“La Scorta” was shot on location in Trapani, Sicily. While the film was low-budget (the producers ran out of money near the end of the shoot), cinematographer Alessio Gelsini makes the most of his material. He exploits the coastal city’s natural light and creates a beautiful effect with water and shadow during a night scene. Gelsini also uses the Steadicam effectively, placing the viewer in the middle of the action and enhancing the dramatic tension. The filmmakers execute a complicated long take at the conclusion of “La Scorta”, using the Steadicam to move in and around the civil servants who are oblivious to the suffering of the main characters.
“La Scorta” is a film in which violence is always a threat, but little of it is actually shown. The sense of unease that permeates the movie is created, in part, by the music of Ennio Morricone. Morricone, who composed the memorable scores to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, uses low brass and percussive keyboard with insistent rhythms that match the taut editing of the film. His music is as tough and tenacious as the characters on-screen.
“La Scorta” (1993) was written by Graziano Diana and Simona Izzo. It is in Italian with English subtitles. “La Scorta” is available on DVD, which is how I watched the film at my own expense.