According to Soldati, it is his best film. At a time in which he was busy producing genre cinema (Walter Chiari comedies; pirate movies), he managed to complete a project from a few years earlier: the first film adaptation of a novel by Alberto Moravia, whom Soldati had known since childhood. The screenplay, written together with Giorgio Bassani, reworks the novel’s narrative though a complicated flashback structure. Beginning with a striking initiating event, the film narrates the life of an unsatisfied middle-class woman from differing points-of-view, adopting the perspective of various characters who, each in their own way, fail to comprehend her. It is another great portrait of a female character, which transposes Moravia’s realism into the classic suspense-mechanism typical of Soldati’s films. In so doing, it joins an elite company of ‘modernist’ melodramas of the period: the first films of Antonioni, certain works by Vittorio Cottafavi, Antonio Leonviola, Claudio Gora and Mario Monicelli. The modernism of its narrative structure is complemented by an elaborate style dominated by lengthy sequence-shots, a sophisticated use of music and a depth of field that places Gemma and her ‘narrators’ on the same plane, making it impossible to judge one without simultaneously judging the other. As Jean Cocteau stated at the time: “The film as a whole is part Maupassant and even part Marcel Proust; but the filmmaker’s skill and the economic use of dialogue and gestures saves the operation. Every second exhibits a power without recourse to tricks or expediencies, a mastery before which we should all bow down”. Perhaps the film also contains Gina Lollobrigida’s best dramatic performance.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal racconto omonimo di Alberto Moravia. Scen.: Giorgio Bassani, Sandro De Feo, Jean Ferry, Mario Soldati. F.: G.R. Aldo, Domenico Scala. M.: Leo Cattozzo. Scgf.: Flavio Mogherini. Mus.: Franco Mannino. Int.: Gina Lollobrigida (Gemma Foresi), Gabriele Ferzetti (professor Franco Vagnuzzi), Franco Interlenghi (Paolo Sartori), Nanda Primavera (madre di Gemma), Marylin Buferd (Anna Letizia Sartori), Barbara Berg (Vannina), Alda Mangini (contessa Elvira), Renato Baldini (Luciano Vittoni). Prod.: Attilio Riccio per Electra Compagnia Cinematografica. 35mm. D.: 115’. Bn.
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