The Inner Cage’s rural Sardinian prison is due to be shut down, but an administrative hiccup forces a skeleton staff to remain and guard a dozen prisoners who can’t be moved elsewhere yet.

Every frame of The Inner Cage is about breaking down the distinctions between guards and prisoners, and revealing the contradictions and cruelty at the heart of any penitentiary system. It would be easy to draw the battle lines aggressively, pitting guards against prisoners, but the script is far more elegant than that. The prisoners try their luck whenever they can, but they are mostly greeted with calm and reason, particularly from Toni Servillo, who is superb as the most senior guard on duty. His impassive, watchful expression reveals his restraint, as his human instinct to sympathy chafes against the strict prison rules.

Servillo is matched by an excellent Silvio Orlando as one of the most astute and wily prisoners, Lagioia. He has the stoic patience of any person serving time, but constantly pushes to be seen as a person, not just a prisoner. The ensemble is beautifully developed, particularly young Fantaccini (Pietro Giuliano), beloved by both prisoners and guards. He is on the hook for a punishment that no one feels he deserves, and his quiet kindness and resilience are heart-breaking to watch.

The blurring of boundaries peaks in a magical power cut sequence, where both sides are forced to eat together in the inner courtyard between their cells. It doesn’t matter who they are, or what they’ve done. At this point, they’re all just people, trying to get through the day and enjoy a nice, home-cooked meal.

This scene is representative of Leonardo di Costanzo’s measured, compassionate direction. You never feel like he’s bouncing through plot, setting up dominoes for later dramatic moments. Instead everything feels organic, with the camera really listening to every character and their troubles.



CAST: Toni Servillo, Silvio Orlando, Pietro Giuliano, Fabrizio Ferracane,

DIRECTOR: Leonardo di Costanzo

WRITERS: Leonardo di Costanzo, Bruno Oliviero, Valia Santella

SYNOPSIS: The last remains of a prison, guards and a few inmates, are waiting to be transferred and gradually the rules seem to make less and less sense and the waiting men become a new fragile community.