Before the Revolution

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Before the Revolution
Before the Revolution poster.jpg
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Written by Bernardo Bertolucci
Gianni Amico
Starring Adriana Asti
Francesco Barilli
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Aldo Scavarda
Edited by Roberto Perpignani
Distributed by New Yorker Films (US, 1965)
Release dates
May 12, 1964
Running time
115 min
105 (USA)
Country Italy
Language Italian

Before the Revolution (Italian: Prima della rivoluzione) is a 1964 Italian romantic drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. It stars Adriana Asti and Francesco Barilli and is centred around "political and romantic uncertainty among the youth of Parma".[1]

The film, strongly influenced by the French New Wave, was shot between September and November, 1963. The shooting took place in Parma and its surroundings, one scene being filmed in the camera ottica (optical chamber) at the Sanvitale Fortress in Fontanellato. It premiered on 12 May 1964 at the 17th Cannes Film Festival during the International Critics' Week. Although the initial reception was only lukewarm, it has since become widely respected by critics, praised for its technical merit and music and is included in the book in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, where Colin MacCabe refers to it as "the perfect portrait of the generation who were to embrace revolt in the late 1960s". A retrospective of the film was given at the BFI Southbank in London.

Plot[edit]

Parma, 1962. Fabrizio, a young student, warns of the difficulty of reconciling the middle class with the militancy of the Italian Communist Party. He remains traumatized by the death of his friend Agostino, who has drowned in the River Po. The arrival of Aunt Gina, an elegant young lady who lives in Milan, increases his worries. The aunt falls in love with him and Fabrizio reciprocates. But the aunt returns to Milan. Fabrizio, conscious of his own weakness and his inability to realize his aspirations and political ambitions, chooses to go along with convention. He gives up Gina and marries Clelia, a beautiful young girl who comes from a respectable family.

Cast[edit]

Background and production[edit]

The film is based on a saying by Talleyrand

The title of the film is derived from a saying by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord: "Only those who lived before the revolution knew how sweet life could be".[2] The names of the characters in the film are the same as those in Stendhal's novel La Charteuse de Parme:[3] the principal character and narrator, Fabrice, is now Fabrizio del Dongo, a young Marxist from a bourgeois family, who attracts his young aunt, Gina, now Gina Sanseverina, and finally marries a girl from a good family, Clélia, now Clelia Conti.

Bertolucci said of the context of the film in a 1996 interview:

"I have a different fever... a nostalgia for the present. Each moment seems remote, even as I live it. I don't want to exchange the present. I accept it, but my bourgeois future is my bourgeois past. For me, ideology was something of a holiday. I thought I was living the revolution. Instead I lived the years before the revolution. Because, for my sort it's always before the revolution".[4]

The film, strongly influenced by the French New Wave,[5] was shot between September and November 1963. The shooting took place in Parma and its surroundings, one scene being filmed in the camera ottica (optical chamber) at the Sanvitale Fortress in Fontanellato.[6]

Themes[edit]

Like Marco Bellocchio's Fists in the Pocket (I pugni in tasca), which was released the following year, Before the Revolution is considered a precursor of the protests of 1968.[7] Luana Ciavola, author of Revolutionary Desire in Italian Cinema, believes that like I pugni in tasca, the film gives the impression of coming from within the bourgeoisie, but at the same time being against it, although notes that the way it approaches revolt differs. He writes of it: "In Prima della rivoluzione the revolt of the protagonist finds support in political committment. Sustained by an erotic desire, the revolt is fostered by the political ideology that provies a raison d'etre as well as a symbolic terrain through which to articulate the revolt. Even more, the ideology, embodied by Cesare, provides Fabrizio with a superior meaning with which to confront and shape his rebel self. Through ideology, Fabrizio spells out and clarifies his course of revolt and singularity of rebel subject, and eventually his desire for revolt".[7] David Jenkins, the critic from TimeOut, noted as that as in "all of Bertolucci's movies, there's a central conflict between the 'radical' impulses and a pessimistic (and/or willing) capitulation to the mainstream of bourgeois society and culture".[1]

Eugene Archer of The New York Times believes that Bertolucci attempted a "symbolic autobiography" in his classical construction of the film. She highlights loss and defeat as notable themes, with the failure at love symbolizing "a death of the past, an angst-ridden sense of futility in any kind of revolutionary striving, whether emotional, political or merely intellectual, amid the defeat of contemporary society".[2] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian notes that the film displays a "distinctively patrician concern with Catholicism and Marxism".[5] One critic noted how "Bertolucci uses poetic sounds and images to try to communicate emotions and ideas, rather than plot, such as in the disturbing final scene where Fabrizio and Clelia's wedding is intercut with Cesare reading "Moby Dick" to a class of youngsters, as a tearful Gina hugs and kisses".[8]

Release and reception[edit]

Before the Revolution premiered on 12 May 1964 at the 17th Cannes Film Festival during the International Critics' Week.[9] Although it is now seen as belonging to the Italian Nouvelle Vague,[10] Before the Revolution did not attract large audiences in Italy where it only received lukewarm approval from most of the critics. It did however enjoy an enthusiastic reception abroad. It has since become widely acclaimed by critics, and praised for its technical merit, although generally not viewed quite as well as some of Bertolucci's later films, due to his young age and lack of experience at time.[11][8]

Film scholar Colin MacCabe refers to the film as "the perfect portrait of the generation who were to embrace revolt in the late 1960s"

The film is cited as "one of the masterpieces of Italian cinema" by Film4, and it is featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, where Colin MacCabe refers to it as "the perfect portrait of the generation who were to embrace revolt in the late 1960s, and a stunning portrait of Parma—Bertolucci's own city". [12] As of May 2015, it has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 11 reviews.[13] A retrospective of the film was given at the BFI Southbank in London.[11] Eugene Archer of The New York Times notes that Bertolucci used many cinematic references in the film to Italian and French realist master directors such as Roberto Rossellini and Alain Resnais, and managed to "assimilate a high degree of filmic and literary erudition into a distinctively personal visual approach", showing "outstanding promise" as a filmmaker.[2]

David Jenkins of TimeOut, was less favorable, and stated that although it is a "leisurely, verbose and stylish film made by thinkers for thinkers, the film "feels like it’s caught between two stools: it lacks the acute social observation found in Bertolucci’s stunning debut, The Grim Reaper (1963), but it also fails to achieve the levels of free-flowing fizz displayed in his follow-up, Partner (1968)". He did, however, praise the "the virtuoso camerawork, Ennio Morricone’s rippling score and the melancholy reminder that for the young and politically engaged, the ‘revolution’ is always just over the horizon".[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Jenkins, David. "Before the Revolution". TimeOut. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Before the Revolution". The New York Times. 25 September 1964. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Kline, Thomas Jefferson (1987). Bertolucci's dream loom: a psychoanalytic study of cinema. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-87023-569-6. 
  4. ^ Guan, Yeoh Seng (25 February 2010). Media, Culture and Society in Malaysia. Routledge. p. 221. ISBN 978-1-135-16928-2. 
  5. ^ a b "Before the Revolution – review". The Guardian. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  6. ^ Bertozzi, Marco (2008). Storia del documentario italiano: immagini e culture dell'altro cinema. Marsilio. p. 22. ISBN 978-88-317-9553-1. 
  7. ^ a b Ciavola, Luana (2011). Revolutionary Desire in Italian Cinema. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 77–78. ISBN 978-1-84876-680-8. 
  8. ^ a b "Before the Revolution". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "Gratis a vedere Bertolucci: le date delle proiezioni" (in Italian). Parma.repubblica.it. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Aitken, Ian (2001). European Film Theory and Cinema: A Critical Introduction. Edinburgh University Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-7486-1168-3. 
  11. ^ a b French, Philip (10 April 2011). "Before the Revolution". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Schneider, Steven Jay (1 October 2012). 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die 2012. Octopus Publishing Group. p. 432. ISBN 978-1-84403-733-9. 
  13. ^ "Before the Revolution". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 

External links[edit]