Quick Thoughts: Viva Riva! (2010)
For the series, and made by Djo Tunda Wa Munga, this is a film from the Democratic Republic Of Congo.
Whilst it is not a masterpiece, Viva Riva is a pretty excellent gangster/crime movie and, as recognised by the African Movie Academy, is one of the most acclaimed African films of all time. The performances are all good, the direction and cinematography shine and the script is quite tight. The main faults in this movie is that it is a little contrived at points and that there’s a bit too much plot – a bit too much happening – in contrast to story; there isn’t enough time dedicated to character and world building. This effects the scenes of high-drama and tension negatively as there is a slight disconnection that disengages you from the narrative as it barrels forward through its plethora of plot points. Beyond that, separating itself from the average gangster film, Viva Rivera formulates an interesting reflection upon the gangster film archetype with its use of sexuality, love and money as the primary motivations for its characters.
As in almost all gangster films, there is a tension between compassion and necessity. Within a film such as the 30s Scarface, this manifests itself with a tension between the American dream and the bond between siblings. Within a film such as The Godfather, this manifests itself as a conflict between business, family and friends. This, too, is projected through Viva Riva, but with the compassionate components – as captivated by family, friendship and love affairs – being far more flagrant and explosive than in the likes of Scarface and The Godfather. Compassion of this kind in Viva Riva is paralleled by a quest for necessity – for money and material objects – of an equal extreme. As is then recognised in all three of the mentioned gangster films, money is a kind of poison. This could not be more true within the realm of the gangster film. This is because necessity and compassion are integral elements of life; we need money to live whilst family and friends making the living worthwhile. With the gangster film as a hyperbolisation of life, the need for necessity – for money – turns into pure greed and exhibitionism whilst all compassionate elements of life suffer dearly.
So, as we have covered before with Scarface, all gangster films are essentially familial tragedies. Beyond this, however, and this is what Viva Riva makes so clear, this familial tragedy is founded upon a tension between compassion and necessity that gets far too out of hand. To then see this idea in action, I highly recommend this film.
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