Sog., Scen.: Nico Naldini. M.: Nico Naldini, Franco Arcalli. Int.: Giorgio Bassani (voce narrante). Prod.: P.E.A. – Produzioni Europee Associate di Grimaldi Maria Rosa. DCP. Bn.
Watching the first sequence, I observed the faces of the fascists and the involved or indifferent people surrounding them. The ‘important’ people (professors, lawyers, etc) had idiotic faces, as usual. They are the real idiots, perhaps crude, naive and in good faith to boot (not because fascists, but because petty – and middle – bourgeoisie). But around them were the faces of fascist hitmen. Thin, bony faces with heavily outlined eyes. Faces strained by life in poverty, by hunger…
This first impression of seeing an anthropological type of Italian that has been this way for centuries and centuries, and that has changed only in the last ten years, lasts and is reinforced throughout all of Naldini’s film. This inoffensiveness of Italian blackshirts is not meek or apolitical but ‘physical’, and it even includes its leaders. The infamous party officials, in my memory the height of savagery and ridiculousness, instead are pathetic imbeciles…
I would say that Naldini’s stylistic decisions in planning are uncompromising. No anti-fascist rhetoric, no facile ‘mockery’ of fascism, but a representation of fascism through materials created by the fascists themselves, through their false and true idea of themselves. In all of this, however, Naldini was swamped by an immense quantity of information: the accumulation of material mostly about the public relationship between Mussolini and the allegedly vast crowds. In the end, and really filmically, the film is a film about the relationship between a leader and his people… A relationship that was inconceivable, absurd, clearly rigged, edited and mystified, but in some way, ridiculous and sinister as it appears in the physical reality of the film materials. Materials that accumulate and, in the end, explode in odd and involuntary expressiveness. It was a terrible game, and Naldini’s film plays with this game. That is why it is an amazing film. But it is also dangerous, because it is the recipients in good faith who accept the game. Those in bad faith play ‘their’ own game, that is to say, as we know, they don’t know how to play. Fascism is a bleak coerced behaviour.
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Poveri ma fascisti, “Il Messaggero”, 17 October 1974