1900 (film)

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Not to be confused with the 1998 film, The Legend of 1900.
1900 Bertolluci.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Written by Franco Arcalli
Bernardo Bertolucci
Giuseppe Bertolucci
Starring Robert De Niro
Gérard Depardieu
Dominique Sanda
Donald Sutherland
Alida Valli
Burt Lancaster
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Vittorio Storaro
Edited by Franco Arcalli
Produzioni Europee Associati
Les Productions Artistes Associés
Distributed by Action Gitanes (France)
United Artists (West Germany)
Paramount Pictures (United States)
Release dates
  • May 21, 1976 (1976-05-21) (Cannes)
  • August 28, 1976 (1976-08-28) (Venice)
  • September 3, 1976 (1976-09-03) (Part 1)
  • September 24, 1976 (1976-09-24) (Part 2)
Running time
317 minutes (Original cut)
247 minutes[1] (Theatrical cut)
Country Italy
West Germany
Language Italian
Budget $9 million[2]

1900 (Italian: Novecento, "Twentieth Century") is a 1976 Italian epic film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, starring Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Donald Sutherland, Alida Valli, and Burt Lancaster. Set in Bertolucci's ancestral region of Emilia, the film chronicles the lives of two men during the political turmoils that took place in Italy in the first half of the 20th century. The film was screened at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition.[3]

Due to the film's length, 1900 was presented in two parts when originally released in many countries, including Italy, East and West Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Colombia.[4]

The film is notorious for an explicit scene of De Niro and Depardieu, who are shown on either side of an actress as their penises are briefly fondled and masturbated by her. Another scene features two prepubescent boys undressing, one of whom is shown frontally naked. They then compare the lengths of their penises, and attempt to retract their foreskins, during which one of them becomes fully erect.[5]


The initial credits are displayed over a zoom out of Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo's The Fourth Estate.

Born on the day of the death of renowned composer Giuseppe Verdi—27 January 1901—Alfredo Berlinghieri and Olmo Dalcò come from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Alfredo is from a family of landowners led by his populist grandfather (also called Alfredo), while Olmo is an illegitimate peasant. Olmo's grandfather, Leo, is the foreman and peasants' strong man who verbally and spiritually carries out a duel of wits with grandfather Alfredo. As Alfredo is somewhat rebellious and despises the falseness of his family, in particular his weak but abusive and cynical father Giovanni, he befriends Olmo, who was raised as a socialist.

The two are friends throughout their childhood, despite the social differences of their families. Olmo enlists with the Italian army in 1917 during World War I and goes off to fight while Alfredo learns how to run his family's large plantation under the guidance of his father. Olmo returns from the war over a year later and his friendship with Alfredo continues. However, Alfredo's father has hired Attila Mellanchini as his foreman. A sadistic man who becomes taken with fascism, Attila eventually incorporates his new belief system in his dealings with the Berlinghieri workers; he treats them cruelly and later cages them in the Berlinghieri compound and accuses them of treason against fascist Italy. Several are killed by Attila himself. As the new padrone (master) of the plantation, Alfredo does little to challenge or halt Attila's actions.

During the late 1920s, the intimacy and lack thereof in their respective relationships with others is highlighted in their love lives. Alfredo marries a gorgeous, demure woman while Olmo marries Anita, who like him shares in the enthusiasm of the cause of workers' rights. Alfredo’s wife, Ada, sinks into alcoholism when confronted with the reality of the emptiness of her relationship with Alfredo. Anita, a strong and independent spirit dies tragically in childbirth, bringing another member into the community. As Olmo takes on his fateful role of leader among the poor farmers and their families, he clashes with Attila.

The power, however, shifts after World War II in 1945, and the ruling class is at the mercy of the jovial and bitter peasants in the agricultural estate. As padrone, Alfredo is captured by a teenage peasant boy carrying a rifle. Attila is also captured when he and his wife, the equally cruel and sadistic Regina, try to flee the region. Attila is stabbed, non-fatally, several times by women wielding pitchforks and is imprisoned in the Berlinghieri pig sty. He is later executed by the peasants (while they cut off most of Regina's hair), who have discovered that Attila had raped and killed a young boy (ironically, the son of one of the most fervent supporters of fascism as an antidote to socialism) several years prior in a sadistic sexual frenzy and had also murdered a wealthy landowner's widow, Mrs. Pioppi (whose husband had been economically ruined by Alfredo), in order to steal her land and home, also [years earlier] Attila had several peasants massacred after they threw horse manure at Atilla for "selling" Olmo. Olmo made Atilla eat manure and let him go. Olmo then had to leave town to keep from being killed by the fascists. Alfredo fires Attila, when Attila and his blackshirts seek vengeance on Olmo by tearing up Olmo's house.

In the final scenes, set on April 28, 1945, Alfredo is brought before Olmo's workers tribunal to stand trial. Many workers come forth and accuse Alfredo of letting them suffer in squalor while he (and his social class) profited from their labors. Alfredo is sentenced to death, but his execution is prevented after Olmo explains that the padrone is dead, so Alfredo Berlinghieri is alive. Suggesting that the social system has been overthrown with the end of the war. As soon as the verdict is reached, however, representatives and soldiers of the new government, which includes the Communist Party, arrive and call on the peasants to turn in their arms. Olmo convinces the peasants to do so, overcoming their skepticism. Alone with Olmo, Alfredo declares, "The padrone is alive."



The original director's cut of the film runs 317 minutes (5 hours, 17 minutes). Alberto Grimaldi, the film's producer, was contractually obligated to deliver a 195-minute (3 hours, 15 minutes) version to Paramount Pictures. Bertolucci originally wanted to release the film in two parts, but Grimaldi refused.

Grimaldi then locked Bertolucci out of the editing room, and assembled a 180-minute cut. Bertolucci, horrified at Grimaldi's cut, decided to compromise.[citation needed] His 255-minute (4 hours, 15 minutes) version was the one initially released in the United States. In 1987, the Bravo channel broadcast the uncut version with dubbed dialogue. Later in 1991, the film was restored to its original length and shown in a limited release.

When Bertolucci released his 317-minute version to theaters, the Motion Picture Association of America re-classified the film with an NC-17 rating; the 245-minute American cut, the other version officially available on video in the United States, still retained its R rating. In 2006, Paramount surrendered the NC-17 rating of the uncut version, then released it as unrated on DVD on 5 December 2006. This same cut was released on Blu-ray Disc in the US by Olive Films on 15 May 2012.


1900 received mixed reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 47% rating based on 15 reviews.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1900 (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 2 November 1977. Archived from the original on 2015-01-08. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  2. ^ 1900 at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: 1900". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  4. ^ "1900 (1976) - Release Info". Internet Movie Database. Amazon.com. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Sex in Films: 1970s - History of Sex in Cinema: The Greatest and Most Influential Sexual Films and Scenes (Illustrated)". Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "1900 (1976)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  • di Giovanni, Norman Thomas. Novecento. Milano: Euroclub, 1977 (published in the U.S. and UK as 1900). A novel based on the film. ISBN 0-440-16203-3
  • Gerard, Fabien S., T. Jefferson Kline, and Bruce Sklarew, eds. Bernardo Bertolucci Interviews. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi P, 2000.
  • Kline, T. Jefferson. Bertolucci's Dream Loom: a Psychoanalytical Study in Cinema. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts P, 1987.
  • Tonetti, Claretta M. Bernardo Bertolucci: the Cinema of Ambiguity. London: Twayne, 1995.

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