Anachronistically and most unusually, the film was banned to anyone under the age of 18. The reason cannot have been the violence depicted in it, which is entirely explicit on the media. The censors, in fact, justified it with the ideologically central scene in which a teacher comments on a painting depicting the flagellation of Christ, placing victim and perpetrator on the same moral level. The trigger, which is extremely important, is discarded along with many others from the novel, alluded to but not fleshed out. The main problem with Mordini’s adaptation is in not letting go of the literary matrix, attempting to keep juggling as many narrative strands and themes as possible, finding himself defeated at the editing stage and having to resort to classic voice over “explanations.” On the other hand, the film attempts not to bring out the ideological colour of the characters in a didactic way, leaving the spaces and the locations to do the talking: the educational establishment is a large Fascist architectural complex, while the bourgeois interiors of the better-off students suggest, with all their horror vacui, the burden of heredity. It would also be interesting, also from a metafilmic point of view, to know why the director chose to give all the main (young) characters to beginners, assigning the secondary roles of the parents – nasty masters - to stars of the Italian acting scene (Riccardo Scamarcio, Valeria Golino, Jasmine Trinca and Fabrizio Gifuni). It is a shame about the extremely variable results in terms of performance.
When it comes down to it, La Scuola Cattolica simply paints a picture of a particular milieu and provides a historical re-enactment of a heinous criminal event, presented in an even tone, without too much splatter or artificial colouring. The themes are simply enunciated and gain traction from the connection with the contemporary debate on the nefarious effects of the combination of traditional values and testosterone. One is left feeling that, with a subject that could potentially have informed a second Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, the absence of a Pier Paolo Pasolini could not have been more obvious. What is lacking is the courage, the depth, the recklessness, the desire to arrive at the extreme consequences in terms both of images and – especially – of philosophical investigation. The upshot is an average Italian product that does not attempt to be, cannot be and should not be a cold case documentary, but lacks the capacity to achieve the complexity of a film/essay.