The Smell of the Night

The Smell of the NightThe Smell of the Night

by Claudio Caligari (1998)

A gang of robbers from the outskirts of Rome led by a young policeman living a double life.


“When the action ended and the fear passed, I was always in a kind of excited safety. We would go home, and I felt good: clear-headed and The Smell of the Nightinvulnerable. Every time, I lost a bit of blood or ended up covered in the blood of the victims. I didn’t stand and watch; I was scared and wanted their money. Men or women, they were all the same: people to be taken. And we all thought they had had a better fate, even though we never said that.”

(Remo Guerra)

The Smell of the NightSomething for Me.

We are at the end of the 1970s. A decade marked by economic crisis, armed struggle and terrorism, and street revolts.

A dark, black, and desperate era. A period of strong divisions and contrasts, of class consciousness.

The violent years of “us against them.”

Violence with a precise code, fueled in the suburbs where Remo Guerra lives, exploding at night in the wealthy districts.

And it is just as the sun sets and darkness looms that the rage becomes uncontrollable.

Remo and his gang roam in search of fur-clad ladies and curly-haired bourgeois with Rolexes on their wrists.

And they steal everything they can get their hands on.

They snatch necklaces, precious watches, steal cash, and break into the homes of those more fortunate than them.

They are not really driven by the desire to possess something. Their actions are more of an outburst that leads them to beat the unfortunate victim senseless.

The demand, before the attack, is always the same: “something for me?”

The illusion remains that they can take revenge on a cruel fate that has condemned them to stay on the margins, like rebels without a cause and without hope.


Claudio Caligari reaches his second directorial effort, fifteen years after his first, wonderful “Toxic Love.”

The Smell of the Night maintains and improves upon an extremely personal style and approach to filmmaking. A narrative that proceeds without filters and without any brakes. It does not try to tame the reality it describes but, on the contrary, captures all its harshness and extreme despair.

It contains the “empty to lose” rage of a generation of misfits that never sees the light at the end of the tunnel. And that smell referenced in the title can be felt in every frame, even in the scenes shot in daylight.

It is a smell that forcefully enters your nostrils and doesn’t leave for the entire duration of the film.

Valerio Mastandrea, in the role of the main protagonist, is simply perfect. He possesses the right physicality and is very good at maintaining the correct balance in his acting, without overdoing it in a caricatural manner. Above all, he avoids the mistake of mimicking other more famous American colleagues. He brings to life an extremely fascinating character precisely because of his imperfections, a criminal gang leader, despite himself, hallucinated and lost. A protagonist who “falls ill with his own thoughts” and “remains attacked by his own image every time he looks in the mirror.”

But the rest of the cast is also of the highest level, including a not yet very well-known Marco Giallini. The scene in which, during a robbery, he forces Little Tony (who plays himself) to sing one of his hits under the threat of a gun is memorable and hilarious.

The Smell of the Night is loosely inspired by “The Nights of Clockwork Orange” by Dino Sacchettoni and remains, after years, an essential film within the genre it represents.

A truly “black and desperate” noir, ultra-violent, that is not afraid to slap and kick the viewer in the face.

A gem absolutely worth rediscovering.

Unique and rare.

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