Bernardo Bertolucci, Dominique Sanda, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, The Conformist, Vittorio Storaro
“The Conformist,” Bertolucci’s 1970 study of the human desire to conform to society. Set in the 1930’s, as Hitler and Mussolini have a grip on Europe, people start picking sides. Beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro (I have his autograph!!!), and costumes by Gitt Magrini.
Marcello Clerici, Jean-Louis Trintignant, son of an aristocratic Italian family, rebels by trying to join the fascist secret police. His father is in an insane asylum, and his mother, a morphine addict, is in a veritable asylum herself. She lives in a broken-down decrepit estate, which represents the decadent, decaying class system.
The film abounds with repetitive imagery, driving home the conforming nature of society, whether it be a democratic one or a socialist one. Repeating windows, or benches, or lines, the sense of unending, and expected sameness.
Marcello meets his old professor in Paris. Professor Quadri has been targeted by the secret police, and Marcello has been picked to pull the trigger.
Marcello reviews Plato’s cave myth, which was his senior thesis in the Professor’s class.
Flashforward to 1943, Mussolini is about to be dragged through the streets, and all of a sudden people aren’t fascist anymore. Marcello included. He denounces it and outs his blind friend Italo as one. A mob quickly sweeps Italo up in a human wave.
Plato’s cave imagery returns in the last shot with Marcello, sitting in a cave-like structure next to a small fire, looking behind him instead of the shadows in front of him like Plato’s prisoners. Has he finally learned to think for himself?
In light of recent tragic events in Boston, we sit shellshocked and horrified and wonder, why and how could someone enact such a thing?
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