The Conformist

Lawrence Russell

The Conformist (Il Conformista 1970) dir. Bernardo Bertolucci based on the novel by Alberto Moravia cine. Vittorio Storaro star Jean-Louis Trintignant (Marcello) Stefania Sandrelli (Giulia)

This is an early effort by Bertolucci, clearly under the influence of Fellini (altho' others say Godard), which has a confused narrative despite being lifted from Alberto Moravia's novel.

The real problem here is 'time', particularly at the beginning of the film where the recent and distant past in Marcello's life are referenced in a melange of flashbacks around the active present (Marcello & Giulia's honeymoon in Paris).

The simple plot -- when separated from Bertolucci's montage -- is actually very good. Enlisted by the Fascists, Marcello is sent to France to assassinate the exiled Prof. Quadri, his former philosophy teacher. Within a subterfuge of sexual liaisons which confuse Marcello, the assassination goes ahead, culminating in the woods on the Franco-Italian border where Quadri is stabbed by a gang of faceless fascist agents in a scene reminiscent of the death of Julius Caesar.

His beautiful young wife Anna is also killed after a long, real-time hunt through the winter forest -- this, despite her previous sexual homage to Marcello who watches dumbly from his car.

Later, when Italy has lost the war and Mussolini is being hung, drawn and quartered, he goes out into the streets saying that "(he) wants to watch the fall of a dictatorship". The night culminates in his hysterical and pathetic denunciation of his blind friend Italo (check the symbolism) as a fascist under the arches of the ancient colosseum. This is precipitated by an unexpected encounter with Lino, the former family chauffeur who had seduced him as a boy. He too is denounced as Marcello, confused in his sexual identity and sense of allegiance, is swept up in a crowd of people singing the International.

Bertolucci is extremely good with sex scenes, particularly the more perverse forms, and this film has a number of such scenes. This obsession, inherited from his mentors Pasolini and Visconti, is to be found in every film he makes.

© LR 27/1/88


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