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Werner Schroeter's Viscontian epic spans three decades as it contrasts the fates of an impoverished brother and sister in the aftermath of World War II.
An epic by any measure, pronounced "a masterpiece" by none other than Philippe Garrel, this relatively big-budget production, shot on location in Naples by Thomas Mauch (Aguirre, the Wrath of God), marked "a new beginning for Schroeter — his best film to date" (Variety). Spanning three decades as it contrasts the fates of an impoverished brother and sister in the aftermath of World War II, the phenomenal Kingdom of Naples echoes the Visconti family chronicles Rocco and His Brothers and La Terra Trema while filtering classic Italian neorealism through the director's operatic sensibility. (Schroeter here reveals a deep love of Italian cinema, taking a black soldier from Rossellini and Lattuada, an airborne religious statue and a raucous prostitute from Fellini, and a mop-headed prole — the spitting image of Ninetto Davoli — from Pasolini.) As much as this highly wrought chronicle of proletarian passions and political disillusionment marked Schroeter's departure from experimental cinema in its clearly defined, almost traditional narrative, the director's love of opera, melodrama, and kitsch blessedly embellishes every sequence.