Piazza Maggiore > 21:45


Fred Zinnemann
Introduced by

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Screening promoted by Fondazione Golinelli

(In case of rain, the screening will take place at Lumière Cinema)


Thursday 06/07/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

If this film, so distant in time and so rooted in the anxieties and rhetoric of its era, retains its own neat and touching internal logic, it is due to a paradox. At the centre is a young man, alone on the Earth, alone in the square courtyard of a military base, a man who does not want to fight and, in order not to fight, faces up to threats, provocation, flattery and derision. This same man will ultimately die in an attempt to reach his fighting position, which he considers his only place in the world. To fight means two things here, both linked to powerful American traditions: stepping into the ring, which is what Private Prewitt no longer wants to do because, like John Wayne in The Quiet Man the year before, he’s been involuntarily responsible for a tragic event; and fighting the Just War, the one that the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor in the final sequence make a moral imperative, the one that for too long will provide a secure anchor for the American interrogation (with no question mark) of why we fight.
Although he was overlooked in a film which won many Oscars, Montgomery Clift wonderfully conveys this man’s unreleased tension, disarming determination, slight obtuseness and emotional blockage, turning him into a character of profound existential mystery. All around him there are more strong colours than nuance, and a screenplay crafted with some rigidity from the popular nov el by James Jones. There is, to use the words of as passionate and ironic an analyst of the war film as the Italian critic Claudio G. Fava, “all the grim, provincial and drowsy atmosphere of what they used to call ‘the old army’”, just a moment before the apocalypse. Thus, we have the sacrificial sub-plot played by a skinny, high-spirited Frank Sinatra, and the torrid, brisk relationship between the magnificent sergeant major Burt Lancaster (from Sergeant York and Iwo Jima
it is the sergeants who really know how to wage war in American cinema) and the very sensual, very sorrowful Deborah Kerr, both clichés embodied with confident elegance.
The restoration establishes (once again) what our memory usually recollects in an amplified way: that the great scene of two bodies clinging to one another, her on top, between the Hawaiian sand and waves, actually only lasts for a second.

Paola Cristalli

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1951) di James Jones. Scen.: Daniel Taradash. F.: Burnett Guffey. M.: William A. Lyon. Scgf.: Cary Odell, Frank Tuttle. Mus.: Morris Stoloff. Int.: Burt Lancaster (sergente Milton Warden), Montgomery Clift (Robert E. Lee Prewitt), Deborah Kerr (Karen Holmes), Donna Reed (Alma/Lorene), Frank Sinatra (Angelo Maggio), Philip Ober (capitano Dana Holmes), Mickey Shaughnessy (sergente Leva), Harry Bellaver (Mazzioli), Ernest Borgnine (sergente ‘Fatso’ Judson), Jack Warden (caporale Buckley). Prod.: Buddy Adler per Columbia Pictures Corp. DCP. D.: 118’. Bn.