Based on the life of anarchist bankrobber Horst Fantazzini, known in Northern Italy as "the gentleman bandit" because he robbed banks with no violence, using only a toy gun. [ChristieBooks]
|Nr of Disks/Tapes
What would someone think when told that this film is the story of a bandit who robs banks with a toy pistol ? “Probably a kids’film”.
What would someone say when told that the robber scolds the cashier for giving him much more money than he had asked for, and then returns the extra money before quietly escaping ? “Probably a comedy.”
How would someone react upon discovering that when the protagonist tries to escape from prison, everyone in command seems to minimize his guilt and help him ? That the sharpshooter who is supposed to kill him only disarms him by shooting his hand ? That the prison director, the psychologist, the lawyer, almost everyone around him promise him all kinds of advantages and benefits to calm him down and preserve his life ? That when he is wounded during his escape attempt and ends up in a hospital, he is visited by the two hostages (whose lives were at stake) who comfort him ?
Does all of this sound incredible ? Of course !
Well, it isn’t : all those are real life occurrences. The film relates the prison life of Horst Fantazzini, son of a known anarchist militant from Bologna, Libero Fantazzini, who fought Fascism valiantly in the Resistance.
Horst, known as the “gentle bandit”, was a non-violent bank robber who spent the last 30 years of his life in prison for crimes that did not deserve such a long sentence. Frustrated, he ends up using for the first time a real gun to attempt the umpteenth evasion. The result is that he fails and is seriously wounded. He is further condemned and expected to spend a total of 50 years in jail even though he killed no one.
The film director, who is also the screenwriter, apparently wants to transform the Fantazzini case into a “cause célèbre” in order to attract the attention of the public opinion and that of the magistrates on this exceptional case which inspires so much sympathy.
Bank robberies have been practiced by several political groups of the right or of the left. Some anarchists believe in them and they call them “expropriation”. But anarchists usually condone them when they are practiced for unselfish purposes and the loot is distributed to the poor or to finance fights against a dictatorship or to alleviate social injustices. They do not approve of them when they are done to avoid working or to finance a dissolute life of luxury and lazyness.
The plot essentially is based on a novel written in prison by Horst Fantazzini. The only episode extant in the film but not in the novel is a dialogue between father and son.
The filmmaker consulted the prisoner about this episode and Horst did not raise any objection, since that probably would be (and perhaps was) Libero Fantazzini’s position in relation to his son’s deeds.
Horst did not survive long enough to see the film based on his life.
We do not learn whether the film reflects the global truth or only a partial reality of Fantazzini’s life.This is not an obstacle to appreciating the film. The acting is excellent, the narrative pace is very dynamic, the suspense persists until the very end, the characters are very incisive, the feelings are positive and, at the same time, we are constantly entertained.