Have you heard about the Italian film that beat Star Wars?

Quo Vado, an Italian film about a middle-age slacker, has become the country’s most successful movie ever, drawing in a crowd of over 8 million since it opened on New Year’s Day. We look at the phenomenon.

By Mike Atherton

While Star Wars The Force Awakens seemed to completely dominate the world’s box office upon its release there was one country where it was pushed all too easily into second place: Italy.

You may be asking what homegrown huge-tentpole big-budget special effects extravaganza the Italians clobbered the Americans with, but surprisingly both the Rebel Alliance and the Empire fell at the feet of a balding middle aged layabout desperate to hold onto his cushy public administration job no matter what.

This little comedy called Quo Vado? (Where Am I Going?) and starring Italian comic Checco Zalone made almost as much money in three days than Star Wars took in three weeks.

To understand how this was possible you need to understand what the film’s hero represents to an Italian audience. Checco’s character from an early age feels a vocation for *posto fisso* (a guaranteed job for life as a public servant) and during a recession with very little job security his attempts to cling on for dear life have made him an unlikely, if not very politically correct, hero for the masses.
Quo Vado
Checco is quick to point out the difference between a bribe and graft when the question of corruption arises as he accepts a small *gift* for issuing a hunting permit. Showing gratitude to someone in his lifetime position is simply traditional and if there’s one thing that Checco is big on it’s tradition. So while his archaic views on a woman’s place in the world are played for laughs we know that it's only a matter of time before his secure little world is shaken up.

Change comes in the form of a new female government minister (Sonia Bergamasco) who Checco mistakes for a secretary. In drastic measures to modernise she has already pushed 1,243 of 1,244 public administrators into voluntary redundancy, but the real challenge is to get Checco to give up his life’s dream. The stage then is set for our hero to be forcibly reassigned to increasingly remote regions until he finds himself in the Arctic Circle where he meets love interest Eleonora Giovanardi’s Valeria – and slowly but surely his attitude begins to thaw.
Quo Vado
He also has to do unspeakable things to an unconscious polar bear, so saying that the comedy on offer is broad is perhaps an understatement. But it’s exactly this old-fashioned feel that Italy has found so comforting, and it makes a strange kind of sense that Stars Wars was trounced at the box office by a film that offers a climactic sing-a-long about the good old days.

Checco eventually finds himself torn between the secure, but stagnant comfort of his old life and the lure of uncertain adventure, and it’s this undetermined vision of the future that Italians in their droves have latched onto. Checco may not be bringing balance to the Force anytime soon, but in a neighbouring county not that long ago or far, far away his adventure has proved itself something to be reckoned with.