From Nordic Noir to Nero Nostra? Inspector Luca
As an erstwhile reluctant, then fully converted, follower of the Saturday evening BBC4 slot, the Montalbano series was my ‘chill out with chocolate’ comfort zone. The all too early ending of the series left a gap which was filled, curiously enough, by Nordic Noir.
Nudged slightly protesting into said Nordic Noir, I started to try to analyse what it was that made the two very different programmes so satisfying. (Quantifying the unquantifiable?)
The Nordic Noir formula could arguably be defined by the six Ps of politics, passion, power, psychology, press, and place. On the other hand, Nero Nostra appears to have a slightly different focus encompassing duty, camaraderie, seduction, sustenance, society, survival.
And so to Luca….
Expecting something along the Montalbano lines (Mafia power, camaraderie of the job, challenges of outside work relationships, ethical decisions – all dished up in a dazzle of sunshine) the reality of wartime Italy, cloaked in mistrust and poverty, set a very different scene.
As the first episode evolved, the character of Luca seemed a little tame compared to the larger than life Montalbano. Luca came across as more serious, and yet Montalbano is more intellectual. Luca seems to go with the political flow – possibly because you had to in order to survive those days – while Montalbano simply does not give a damn; he’s not playing the game. Luca’s attitude to the ‘good things of life’ could be said to be ‘take whatever is presented’ but don’t go looking for them, whereas Montalbano’s passion for food overwhelms him, and influences most of what he is and does. Both are loners, yet respectful of women. Both display compassion.
Eco, Luca and Montanbano – where ladies of leisure, gangsters, platefuls of pasta, a soupcon of religiosity, a dash of male ego, and a frisson of frustration, flit across the screen.
Nordic Noir, on the other hand, presents to the viewer an intriguing melange of serious political debate, the intricacies of psychological manipulation, partisan organisational politics, and ‘what’s in it for me’ personal relationships… The characters appear to be more controlled, less volatile, more complex.
The Italian series may be very Nostra, but Nero? Definitely not! It’s much too light.
In many ways the more interesting contrast is not of NN v Italian Intrigue. It’s Montalbano v Luca. The differences between these two Italian offerings are marked, but one significant similarity is entertaining. They both use the background beat of Tango, with its ‘don’t dare ignore me’ undertone of passion; passion for your friends, for your job, for your country, for the very essence of life itself – which is all quite irresistible.