Saturday, November 22, 2008


Novocento; Drama, Italy/ France/ Germany, 1976; D: Bernardo Bertolucci, S: Gérard Depardieu, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Dominique Sanda, Burt Lancester, Francesca Bertini, Laura Betti, Sterling Hayden

Italy at the end of World War II. A lost Fascist kills a shepherd while the peasants start to attack the estate of the former Fascist Attila and the influential owner Alfredo...In 1900, Alfredo, the grandchild of the rich estate owner, and Olmo, the grandchild of an ordinary peasant who works on the estate, are born on the same day. Alfredo and Olmo grow up together as friends, even though the class difference separates them more and more. The peasants are fed up working for a measly salary so they start a strike. When Olmo returns from World War I, he decides to enter the Socialist club, hoping to help the poor peasants get a decent salary. But the rich Attila hates them. Alfredo marries Ada and leads an empty relationship while Olmo marries Anita who truly loves him. After the war, Alfredo is trialed for collaborating with the fascists.

Filmed in international production, epic history drama "1900" has an intriguing story that symbolically contemplates about the antagonism between the Bourgeoisie (Capitalism) and the Proletariat (Socialism), but the anamorphic direction by Bernardo Bertolucci will repulse many. Basically, as a Marxist, it's his dream project that represents his political views: the Bourgeoisie exploits the naive and uneducated Proletariat and presents that state of things as normal, but when the poor peasants discover Socialism the rich Bourgeoisie members panic and resort to Fascism to keep them under control and keep the status quo. Therein, "1900" represents Bertolucci's view that the next Century should belong to the Socialism. Some of his methods are quite brave, like the erotic scenes (a prostitute uses her both hands to masturbate the penises of Alfredo and Olmo who are lying next to her), yet one scene in particular is quite unpleasant since it crosses into pedophilia (when the two protagonists as young boys pull down the foreskin of their penises), which not only causes controversies and made the film get banned in some countries, but also ruined the atmosphere of the film.

The thing that indicates that Bertolucci really went overboard with this and lost every sense for measure is also the unbelievable running time - 5 hours (!), which is why "1900" is today mostly shown in 2 parts. Still, he showed he is an author without compromise who roughly shows life: in the exposition, women attack the former Fascist Attila so he runs away while pitchforks are still stabbed into his leg and chest; the owner tells the poor peasant that he doesn't listen to him, so he cuts off his ear and puts it in his arms. Despite the overstretched 300 minutes, the actors achieved impressive performances, especially Gerared Depardieu and Robert De Niro, which is why the tragic relationship of the friendship between the poor Olmo and the rich Alfredo, is even more impressive while some scenes are wonderfully directed, but as a whole the movie is a mess. It collides with various political ideas and statements, but doesn't know when to stop, which results in an epic mess, to be precise.


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