Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thoughts On Early Visconti

Revisiting some of Visconti's early films, it was very interesting how in the idiom of neorealism he is implying a very personal view (and style). How he is escaping from the limitations of Italian cinema and goes beyond the warm-hearted depiction of everyday life of ordinary people:

Ossessione (1943)

His compositions have deep roots in the last century's art, especially painting and opera.

Ossessione (1943)

Powerful elements of queer subjectivity from his very first picture, and discussing this theme, directly in his latter works.

Ossessione (1943)

Sexual conflict and the image of the destructive woman. Reappears in his later films as "fascism and sexual perversion."

Ossessione (1943)

Quasi-documentary realism; the exoticism intrinsic to the subject matter; the underlying "human geography."

L'innocente (1976) [original shot in color]

Extensive use of close-ups.

Rocco e i suoi fratelli (1960)

Dialectical confrontation between high and low, ancient and new, aristocracy and proletarian as depicted in contradiction between architecture and man, or people and their surroundings.

Le notti bianche (1957)

Unreconciled tension between a Marxian vision of society and an operatic conception of character.

Senso (1954)
Il gattopardo (1963)
[both shots originally in color]

Depicting the dissolution of the aristocracy with sympathy and understanding for the aesthetic and intellectual qualities that Visconti, as an aristocrat himself, so deeply appreciated. One can call all his best films, the stories of decadence of his class. Meanwhile notice how Visconti use mirrors as a object of reflecting the inner state of the main character , or to show passing of time and coming to age (especially in Leopard case), when Burt Lancaster is standing in front of a mirror, and it's reflecting Alain Delon's image.

La Terra trema (1948)

I find these two shots from "La Terra trema," one of Visconti's most crucial shot/reverse shots among his early films.
Men leave for sea. Women farewell them. As they close the shabby house's door. Two shot, from two different angle picture this severance and shows how Visconti substitutes neorealist subjectivity with a pure pictorial aesthetics, based on opera.
See the emphasis on architecture, the sense of space that goes beyond daily reality. And also look how a bared tree turns into a aesthetic element of the shot. The unusual angle between two shots is nothing like common reaction shots that we used to see in the films of that particular period. In a sense, it's an unnecessary shot, but it works perfectly and we can extend this idea to Visconti's way of building his sequences, too.
That's also the way Visconti create his unique cinematic rhythm. Pacing in his early films anticipated the 1960s art cinema style with less emphasis on action and more emphasis on character development and creating a special sense of time and space. His films have many long sequences that may at first viewing seem “unnecessary” for the development of the plot, but that are actually crucial to Visconti’s study of the mood and psychological aspects of the film.

1 comment:

  1. A good discussion about Visconti and this post is going on in