In an atmosphere of political tension when the French still control Algiers, an Algerian is killed on the beach and a French man who has lived in Algiers all his life is arrested for the ... See full summary »
Sandra comes back to Volterra, in Tuscany, the little town where she spent her childhood. She is with her American husband, Andrew. She wishes to pay homage to her father who died in Auschwitz where she was still a little child. In Volterra, Andrew meets for the first time Gianni, Sandra's brother. He soon realizes that Sandra and Gianni have a secret since their childhood.Written by
Clues strewn by Visconti allow the viewer to enjoy a multi-layered film
Deserved the Golden Lion at Venice. Powerful at all times except for its below average beginning. Then it changes gears.
The film is typical Visconti--a well-to-do upper class family returning to the childhood manor, picking up the memorable pieces of a rich and comfortable past before the World War II (literally in the film, the sale of valued paintings, property, and in this film, a garden that needs costly upkeep forcing the family now to gift it to the townsfolk as public property). Touches of Visconti's and Lampedusa's "The Leopard" made just before this film.
The original head of the family, Sandra's father was a Jew, and executed by the Nazis. He was exposed as a Jew by his wife, a famous pianist who fell in love with a lawyer. Sandra suspects the lawyer and her mother for her father's demise. Visconti never reveals why the Nazis spared the family members. Now Sandra's mother is demented and her father's statue in the garden is always covered in a white sheet giving the suggestion of a ghost. But the film is not about ghosts.
The film is more about Sandra (Cardinale) and her brother Gianni (Sorel) who reveal an past that might never have been consummated. Now that Sandra is married to Andrew (Craig), Gianni removes the wedding ring from Sandra's finger and wears it, Sandra's protests unheeded.
Visconti's script reveals that Sandra had a lover, Antonio (who still adores her, played by Ricci), but they could not marry because of the class divide and opposition from her mother to the relationship. Years later Antonio becomes a doctor who treats Sandra's demented mother.
While the film is not about ghosts, it is about a dark past, bitter memories, class and religious conflicts, that struggle to keep pace with the world outside the Italian town with a rich history. An electra complex emerges like a ghost--Visconti's images of Cardinale's body (especially her eyes that wonder who is outside her bedroom door) are absolutely top notch. There is no overt sex, no on screen and even the spoken words deny more than underscore it. you wonder about Sandra's mother if she is truly demented when she accuses her daughter Sandra of slithering in like a serpent.
Every bit of the film makes you wonder as you clutch at the straws the director throws as clues for the viewer to solve a big puzzle. The poem which provides the original Italian title of the film is one, There are more Solve them and you will love the film. Deserving of the Venice honor. Thank you, Cardinale and Sorel, for your unforgettable screen time in this film. A film that anticipates Visconti's "The Damned" and "Conversation Piece."
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