Fans of “Foyle’s War” know that being an ordinary cop during war has its problems. Sometimes, justice is sacrificed for the war effort. In the Detective De Luca series, a man clings to his identity as a cop in the socio-political chaos of Italy from 1938 to 1948.
De Luca doesn’t take sides. In Italian politics that was a wise decision. He’s not a Fascist, but he’s also not a Partisan. He doesn’t take political sides. He’s more concerned with laws, ancient laws such as thou shalt not kill.
This 2008 TV mini series starred Alessandro Preziosi as Commissario Achille De Luca. The series is based on the novels of Carlo Lucarelli. The series has a somber tone and a certain style. You sense the gentility of the times masking anxious desperation and uncertainty.
In the year 1938, Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released, but in Germany, the land of the brothers Grimm Adolf Hitler abolished the War Ministry. Hitler later makes a speech against Czechoslovakia at Nuremberg and Time magazine makes him “Man of the Year.” The Japanese Imperial Army continues to invade Mainland China. Seabiscuit defeats War Admiral in November and Orson Welles’ “The War of the Worlds” is broadcast.
Benito Mussolini had risen to power, becoming the dictator of Italy in 1926 and would remain Il Duce until 1943. He was assassinated on 27 April 1945. Hitler has become Chancellor of Germany in 1933. They became allied as the Axis powers in 1937.
De Luca does meet Il Duce and even receives an honor from him, but he does not seek his support and doesn’t give Il Duce his loyalty. He is a cop first and foremost.
In “An Unauthorized Investigation,” De Luca finds himself uncomfortably close to Il Duce in Riccione during the August of 1938. A call girl is discovered dead on a beach by nuns. Mussolini just happens to be on vacation in the nearest house. The police are determined not to disturb Il Duce’s vacation, but De Luca is determined to find out the truth yet his investigation necessarily involves some of Il Duce’s social group.
Yet by the second episode, “Carte Blanche,” Il Duce is dead and De Luca finds himself in Bologna in the spring of 1945. A wealthy bachelor has been murdered and the Fascist government wants De Luca’s help but only if the finds the “correct” suspect.
By episode three, “Cloudy Summer,” the Allies have invaded Italy. De Luca flees to the countryside but gets caught up in a checkpoint shootout. He escapes to a small village where a local policeman asks for his help with a murder.
By the last episode, “Via delle Oche,” De Luca is back in Bologna in the spring of 1948. He’s the low man on the totem pole, assigned to patrolling the red light district and he runs into an old love. His first murder case seems to involve local politicians and members of the police bureaucracy.
De Luca like Foyle is thoughtful, but he is a loner. Foyle has a mournful air, remembering his wife fondly. De Luca is a man who stands back from society, looking in, but not willing to join. He has affairs and this being an Italian series, you can expect to see bared female breasts.
De Luca is a dark, thoughtful rumination of justice during the times of war. Our protagonist survives but is not well liked although he is good at his job. While Foyle was better with people, De Luca is not a people person, perhaps made too cynical through his exposure to the worse of people. Both Foyle and De Luca have a hard time with the injustice under the demands of war, but Foyle is at times able to use his knowledge as power. De Luca remains a powerless man who is unrelentingly honest.
I hadn’t considered what happened to the police during wartimes, particularly those who saw their occupation as a grand and honorable venture, eschewing politics. “Detective De Luca” is available on MHzNetworks. In Italian with English subtitles.