by Jeanette Bonner
It’s the beginning of the new year, so out with the old, in with the new, as they say! What better time of year to set good intentions for our next trip around the sun – go back to the gym, fix the roof, maybe even learn pottery! And also a time to be rid of bad habits, such as cutting down on drinking, quitting smoking, and seriously, you’ve GOT stop killing people.
Well…. at least attempt to stop killing people. Every day. But damnit! They’re just so damn annoying, aren’t they?
Arthur (Ettore Nicoletti) is a charmingly adorable slacker who would rather just lie in his bed all day than go to work. Money’s not an issue; he has in inheritance to live off of, but the problem is really that he can’t seem to want to do much of anything. And the other problem is people. As Arthur says: “As soon as you let the world in, it’s such a hassle.” He just prefers silence. It’s unfortunate really, this accidental killing habit of his, as he really wants to be a good person and to stop killing people, but like any of us who when the time comes prefer to listen to our naughty shoulder devil, one tiny slip keeps him continually from his goal. After all, Arthur muses – “A diet always starts on Monday.”
Created by Italian team Alberto Meroni (Producer), Nick Rusconi (Director/ Writer) and Chloe De Souza (Writer) in a co-production with RSI RADIOTELEVISIONE SVIZZERA in 2015, Arthur gained recognition in 2016 from eleven different web fests worldwide for its clever, irreverent take on a very dark subject and for the addiction that results in watching Arthur try again and again to overcome his nasty habit. It has accumulated more than 100 laurel wreaths and in November was revealed to have reached the coveted number one spot in the Web Series World Cup, a scoreboard of the best-awarded web series in fifteen international festivals.
It’s easy to see why it has been so well liked in such a range of countries. Distinct in its spare use of dialogue, most of the quick, five minute episodes are visual vignettes in different settings with Arthur’s thoughts in voice over. The series is performed in Italian with subtitles in the language of your choice. But even without translation, Nicoletti’s bright, wide eyes clue us in immediately to what’s going on in Arthur’s brain and where his chain of thought might lead him. If you had the sound completely turned off I believe you would still understand the series entirely – and still find it funny and enjoyable to boot, which is an astonishing accomplishment. With so many talking head comedies emerging in the web series world today, Arthur succeeds because its particular brand of comedy, which brings to mind a classic commedia del’arte, crosses cultures.
Our comedic foil is seen in situations the audience will recognize immediately: a grocery store with a bratty kid, an elderly lady with a yippy white dog needing assistance, the man with the cane who just can’t seem to move aside so we can pass by. It’s not so much that the people are bad really; it’s just that their presence is slightly inconvenient to our own. All we need to know is that Arthur, like all great Arlecchino-type commedia characters, has intelligence and yet one tiny little flaw – one he’d greatly like to overcome but just can’t seem to succeed at achieving. “You know I just can’t resist new experiences,” he complains to his one companion Zed, suffering in a retirement home after a stroke, fortunately (for Arthur’s confessions) mute.
Arthur is simple in set up but superior in execution because it is exquisitely shot, expertly edited with a cinematic score, and most importantly, charmingly and engagingly acted by Ettore Nicoletti, who plays the namesake character. Despite his villainy and lust for horrible ends for the innocent, you can’t help but root for him to both kill and to control his urges, a premise as preposterous and it is sublime. It is an absolute perfect formula for a comedic web series.
Shit hits the fan when he meets-cute with an adorably spunky detective at the library where he works who just so happens to be investigating his murders. The season takes a dark (albeit slightly forced and a tad cheesy) turn at the end, but still retains its upbeat and fun zaniness, reminding all of us who have been rooting for him not to kill that “Our fate can change but our nature won’t.”
Treat yourself to your favorite vice and snuggle in for a delightfully bloody romp on the dark side.
Watch Arthur on YouTube!