Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Le Notti Bianchi and How Luchino Visconti Ripped My Heart Out and Made Me Love It

Holy cow. I can’t believe what I just watched. Luchino Visconti bases Le Notti Bianchi, a 1957 film, on a story written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky called “White Nights.” The story only last four nights, but by the end of this short tale I unknowingly had my heart shattered. At the beginning of the film, I was astonished by how stunningly the movie is filmed. Criterion labels the film as a black-and-white dream, and rightly so. You travel each corner and crevice of this small-unnamed town until you seem to know each one just as well as those who inhabit it. I have read that Visconti exchanged sadness for sentimentality from the original text and I think this it what it most becoming about it the film.

Mario (Marcello Mastroianni) and Natalia (Maria Schell) are two lonely and restless souls who happen to meet each other at the right place but the wrong time. The right place is a small bridge connecting the older parts of town to the neon lit streets of the main corso. It’s pretty that is why it’s right, no other reason. Natalia is on the bridge weeping, as we find out later, because she is waiting for a lover who promised to come back to her after a year had passed. Mario is there because, as we find out later, he enjoys walking alone with his thoughts. It’s quite sappy, yes. Yet the two cross paths and so ensues the gentle shattering of my heart. As each night goes by I was sure Natalia's lover would come. I waited for him to appear way in the back of the frame, but Natalia’s lover never shows. Three nights go by and with ninety minutes passed in a 101-minute film I am now assured that nope the dude is not going to show. Furthermore Mario and Natalia have become close and one would think love is blossoming.

Honestly I am sitting there literally five minutes left in the movie and Visconti rips my heart from my chest. I was getting a bit annoyed at that point because I wanted something more from the movie. I didn’t know what it was about and I didn’t know anything of the nature of the film before I watched it. I was getting to the point that I was going to chalk it up to just something just stunning and I was fine with that. And then reality sets back in and just slaps me right out, I didn't realize how invested I was in the story until I just began sobbing at the last moment. Its amazing what a grip I was in without even knowing it. But Visconti slapped me in the face, ripped my heart out and made me love it. The movie is just brilliant.

P.S. Despite all this, even if you're not into the whole carpet being ripped from underneath you stuff the movie is utterly stunning and has a most fantastic dance scene and should be watched solely on that bases also.

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