Spiral 2 and ‘Romanzo Criminale’

Following the Sebastian Bergman two-parter, BBC4 will be repeating series 2 of Spiral (Engrenages) from this Saturday, 9 June, at 9.00pm. It looks like there will be two episodes each week, following the pattern of The Killing, Borgen and the like.

For those catching up, there’s a nice little review in the Radio Times to set the scene.

Spiral: gritty and urban, innit?

While looking around the website, an Italian crime series that aired back in October 2011, but is being repeated on Sky Arts 1, also caught my eye. Romanzo Criminale (‘Crime Novel’) has been styled as an ‘Italian Killing’ (pure hype, as the two series are completely different to one another), but I must say that I like the look of it, especially given its interesting historical and political setting.

70s mobster chic means looooaads of wonga

Amy Raphael describes the series in her Radio Times article as follows:

‘Set in Rome between 1977 and 1992, Romanzo Criminale has been an Italian television sensation, based on the exploits of a real-life criminal street gang.

La Banda della Magliana was a mob of fearless, ultraviolent suburban youths, who became, in the words of judge [and author] Giancarlo de Cataldo, “a real criminal power”.

De Cataldo’s novel [on La Banda] was first made into a film, but the television series that followed has aired in Italy to rapturous acclaim. One broadsheet called it “perhaps the best series ever made in Italy”, while another insisted that “it’s the only Italian series of which we can be proud… that we can export abroad”.

Opening in 1977, the drama is sharply written, beautifully shot, funny, violent and political. These were Italy’s “years of lead” when student protesters fought the police and the Red Brigades tried to destabilise the country. It’s a compelling backdrop for a series that’s brutally honest about Italy’s bloody criminal past.’

Has anyone already seen the series, and if so, what did you think of it?

18 thoughts on “Spiral 2 and ‘Romanzo Criminale’

  1. Well, I haven’t seen the Italian series, but whoever is desperately trying to escape from that red dress is certainly interesting. On a strictly shallow, surface level, of course; I admit it.

  2. Some time ago, Karen (Euro Crime) and I saw a clip from the old movie of Romanzo Criminale at the Italian Cultural Institute, where the author was hosting an event. His book on which the film was based was not translated – to his chagrin, it seemed. I thought the film looked good from the clip so when the remake (as a TV series) came on BBC4 I recorded it. Unfortunately I found it utterly tedious and uninvolving – but I have never liked mafia films/books and stories told from gangsters’ POV (as this is), I am a complete heretic as I dislike the Godfather and all of that. I am sure that many people love it, it is just a matter of taste.
    I liked Spiral 2, not as good as Spiral 1 but still good. Unfortunately it continued to Spiral downhill with 3 and 4 – in 4, Laure has been assimilated as a character into a typical female cop, such a pity as she was a great creation in the early series. That Laurent is extremely easy on the eye, it has to be said 😉

    • Interesting, Maxine. Can you remember when the TV series aired on BBC4? I completely missed it. I’m a real sucker for Godfather / 70s dramas, so I think I’d probably like it, but as I don’t subscribe to Sky, I may need to hunt for it as a DVD.

      So you still have a thing for Laurent?!

  3. We Sky+’d Romanzo Criminale as I have to make an effort to pay attention to subtitles. We’re about halfway through the series and loving it. The story is more about the Libanese’s gang than the police trying to catch them (well, so far) but it’s brutal. violent, and pretty funny. The period setting, seeing the actors with the 70’s style hair and clothes – it’s all very well done.

  4. Hi Mrs. P.
    Can I wholly recommend Romanzo Criminale season 1 and Spiral season 2?
    Romanzo Criminale is an excellent dramatisation. It is firmly embedded in the corruption that was Italian politics in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Written by a lawyer who was practising at the time in Rome it may be violent but it is based upon real life events. Might I also, while singing the praises of this series, recommend the quirky film Il Divo – about the career of the Italian premier Andreotti which covers a similar time in Italian history.
    Spiral 2 is, in my opinion, by far the best of the series so far. Though watch out, the opening episode is rather gruesome.
    Speaking of gruesome, are you watching Braquo? Now in its second season on the FX channel. It is a little too violent even for me but the plotting & characterisation are excellent.
    Here’s hoping the Romanzo Criminale re-run means we are due to see season 2 soon after.

    • Many thanks for your comments, Yvonne. It’s fascinating that the author of Romanzo Criminale was himself a witness to that time and those events while a lawyer – and yes, the way the series takes up the larger themes of politics and criminality are very much of interest to me: crime drama as a powerful form of social commentary. The series clearly touched a nerve in Italy, and it would be interesting to read some of the reviews that it garnered when it was aired. I’ve not seen Il Divo as yet – thanks for that recommendation.

      As for Braquo: no, I haven’t seen any of that series, probably because its reputation for violence preceded it. Don’t know enough about it though, so must do some further investigation!

  5. Mrs P, Maxine has strangely completely forgotten the character in Spiral of Josephine Karlsson, a beautiful and ruthless lawyer who is exceptionally easy on the eye. Laure was rather gorgeous in Spiral 1 until she had some very bad hair days in the sequels.
    I saw the movie Romanzo Criminale which was very long but exciting and interesting. The TV series lost me as it became boring after a while.
    The outstanding series on TV at the moment is Prisoners of War [Hatufim] the Israeli series that inspired Homeland. The original is far more harrowing and believable than Homeland. The TV company obviously thought Prisoners of War was too subtle and emotional for a mass American audience, and they had to add on a lot more excitement.

    • Thanks, Norman, I’m sure Maxine will be grateful for your reminder of Josephine’s charms! I have sympathy for Laure and her bad hair days, though; I know how those feel.

      I think I will now need to see the film as well as the TV series of Romanze Criminale.

      Many thanks for bringing up the subject of Hatufim. I’ve seen this series mentioned a number of times as the forerunner of Homeland (with which I became bored quite quickly), and would very much like to see it. Glad to have your recommendation.

    • I saw Spiral on BBC4 awhile back, and I thought it was good (though not as good as the Scandinavian competition). I somehow missed series 2 the first time around, so I will be interested in seeing it now.

      And, yes, both Laure and Karlsson are — distracting. (I’m sure I can get past the hairdo; I’m deep that way.)

    • I will if you will…!!!

      Mind you, I may have to start with the film (which is going on Amazon for a song), as it has English subtitles. Not sure that the two series do…

      • the series doesn’t seem to have English subtitles, unfortunately. If i do get it, I’ll let you know if it does 🙂 The film is very good from what I can remember.

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