Nights of Cabiria

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Nights of Cabiria
(Le notti di Cabiria)
Nights of Cabiria Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFederico Fellini
Screenplay byFederico Fellini
Ennio Flaiano
Tullio Pinelli
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Story byFederico Fellini
Produced byDino De Laurentiis
CinematographyAldo Tonti
Otello Martelli
Edited byLeo Catozzo
Music byNino Rota
Distributed byParamount Pictures (Italy)
Les Films Marceau (France)
Lopert Pictures Corporation (US)
Release date
  • 10 May 1957 (1957-05-10) (Cannes)
  • 27 May 1957 (1957-05-27) (Italy)
  • 16 October 1957 (1957-10-16) (France)
Running time
118 minutes[1]

Nights of Cabiria (Italian: Le notti di Cabiria) is a 1957 Italian drama film directed by Federico Fellini and starring Giulietta Masina, François Périer, and Amedeo Nazzari. Based on a story by Fellini, the film is about a prostitute in Rome who searches in vain for true love.

Besides the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for Giulietta Masina, Nights of Cabiria won the 1957 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This was the second straight year Italy and Fellini won this Academy Award, having won for 1954's La Strada, which also starred Giulietta Masina.


A happy, laughing Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) is standing on a river bank with her current boyfriend and live-in lover, Giorgio (Franco Fabrizi). Suddenly he pushes her into the river and steals her purse which is full of money. She cannot swim and nearly drowns, but is rescued by a group of young boys and revived at the last possible moment by helpful ordinary people who live a little further down the river. In spite of their just saving her life, she treats them with disdain and starts looking for Giorgio.

Cabiria returns to her small home, but Giorgio has disappeared. She is bitter, and when her best friend and neighbor, Wanda (Franca Marzi) tries to help her get over him, Cabiria shoos her away and remains disgruntled. She continues to work as a prostitute. One night, she is outside a fancy nightclub and witnesses a fight between famous movie star, Alberto Lazzari (Amedeo Nazzari) and his girlfriend, as she dumps him. The difference between the glamorous girlfriend, in a mink coat, and the short and scruffy Cabiria are stark. The jilted Lazzari takes the starstruck Cabiria to another club and then to his house, where Cabiria is astounded by its opulence. As the two are finally becoming closer after a rather standoffish few hours, Lazzari's girlfriend returns and Cabiria is shuffled off to the bathroom, unable to make love with the movie star.

Later, a church procession passes the hangout area for the town prostitutes. As her associates mock the Church, Cabiria is drawn to the procession. Just as she is about to join the procession, another john comes and she gets in his truck instead. As she heads home later that night, she sees a man giving food to the poor people living in caves near her house. She has never seen this man before, but she is impressed by his charity toward others. When she goes to church with her friends, she prays for a chance to better her life.

Cabiria goes to a magic show, and the magician (Aldo Silvani) drags her up on stage and hypnotizes her. As the audience laughs, she acts out her desires to be married and live a happy life. Furious at having been taken advantage of for the audience's amusement, she leaves in a huff. Outside the theater, a man named Oscar (François Périer) is waiting to talk to her. He was in the audience, and he says he agrees with her that it was not right for everyone to laugh, but believes that fate has brought them together. They go for a drink, and at first she is cautious and suspicious, but after several meetings she falls passionately in love with him; they are to be married after only a few weeks. Cabiria is delighted and sells her home and takes out all her money from the bank. The sum of more than 700,000 lire in cash represents her dowry, and when she shows it to Oscar in a restaurant he advises her to keep it in the purse. However, during a walk in a wooded area, on a cliff overlooking a lake,[2] Oscar becomes distant and starts acting nervous. Cabiria realizes that just like her earlier lover, Oscar intends to push her over the cliff and steal her money. She throws her purse at his feet, sobbing in convulsions on the ground and begging for him to kill her as he takes the money and abandons her.

She later picks herself up and stumbles out of the wood in tears. In the film's famous last sequence, Cabiria walks the long road back to town when she is met by a group of young people riding scooters, playing music, and dancing. They happily form an impromptu parade around her until she begins to smile through her tears.



The name Cabiria is borrowed from the 1914 Italian film Cabiria, while the character of Cabiria herself is taken from a brief scene in Fellini's earlier film, The White Sheik. It was Masina's performance in that earlier film that inspired Fellini to make Nights of Cabiria.[3] But no one in Italy was willing to finance a film which featured prostitutes as heroines. Finally, Dino de Laurentiis agreed to put up the money. Fellini based some of the characters on a real prostitute whom he had met while filming Il Bidone. For authenticity, he had Pier Paolo Pasolini, known for his familiarity with Rome's criminal underworld, help with the dialogue.[4]

Nights of Cabiria was filmed in many areas around Italy, including Acilia, Castel Gandolfo, Cinecittà, Santuario della Madonna del Divino Amore, and the Tiber River.[5]


At the time of the film's first American release, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a mixed review: "Like La Strada and several other of the post-war Italian neo-realistic films, this one is aimed more surely toward the development of a theme than a plot. Its interest is not so much the conflicts that occur in the life of the heroine as the deep, underlying implications of human pathos that the pattern of her life shows...But there are two weaknesses in Cabiria. It has a sordid atmosphere and there is something elusive and insufficient about the character of the heroine. Her get-up is weird and illogical for the milieu in which she lives and her farcical mannerisms clash with the ugly realism of the theme."[6] Upon its original 1957 release, on the other hand, French director François Truffaut thought Cabiria was Fellini's best film to date.[7] The film ranked 3rd on Cahiers du Cinéma's Top 10 Films of the Year List in 1957.[8]

Forty years later, the Times carried a new review by Crowther's successor, Janet Maslin. She called the film "a cinematic masterpiece", and added that the final shot of Cabiria is worth more than "all the fire-breathing blockbusters Hollywood has to offer."[9] This has stood by far as the most prevalent assessment of the artistic achievements of the movie.

Film critic Roger Ebert reviewed mainly the plot and Fellini's background: "Fellini's roots as a filmmaker are in the postwar Italian Neorealist movement (he worked for Rossellini on Rome, Open City in 1945), and his early films have a grittiness that is gradually replaced by the dazzling phantasms of the later ones. Nights of Cabiria is transitional; it points toward the visual freedom of La Dolce Vita while still remaining attentive to the real world of postwar Rome. The scene involving the good samaritan provides a framework to show people living in city caves and under bridges, but even more touching is the scene where Cabiria turns over the keys of her house to the large and desperately poor family that has purchased it."[10] He gave the film four stars out of four and included it in his Great Movies list.

In 1998, the film was re-released, newly restored and now including a crucial 7-minute sequence (with the man giving food to the poor people living in caves) that censors had cut after the premiere.[11]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 42 reviews. The consensus states: "Giulietta Masina is remarkable as a chronically unfortunate wretch with an indomitable spirit in Federico Fellini's unrelentingly bleak -- yet ultimately uplifting -- odyssey through heartbreak."[12]




The American musical Sweet Charity (and its film adaptation) is based on Fellini's screenplay.[16] In January 2002, the film (along with La Strada) was voted at No. 85 on the list of the "Top 100 Essential Films of All Time" by the National Society of Film Critics.[17][18] The film was included in BBC's 2018 list of The 100 greatest foreign language films voted by 209 film critics from 43 countries around the world.[19][failed verification]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NOTTI DI CABIRIA (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 22 October 1957. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  2. ^ Scenes were shot on location at Lake Bracciano near Rome. Kezich, 183
  3. ^ This and the following facts about the film's production are taken from a series of interviews with Fellini Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Rumble, Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, p. 171
  5. ^ "Locations for Nights of Cabiria". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, 29 October 1957. Last accessed: 26 January 2008.
  7. ^ Truffaut, The Films in My Life
  8. ^ Johnson, Eric C. "Cahiers du Cinema: Top Ten Lists 1951-2009". Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  9. ^ Times 1998 review
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, 16 August 1998.
  11. ^ New York Times article
  12. ^ Nights of Cabiria at Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved 28 February 2021
  13. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Nights of Cabiria". Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  14. ^ "The 30th Academy Awards (1957) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  15. ^ "Awards for Nights of Cabiria". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  16. ^ Sweet Charity at IMDb.
  17. ^ Carr, Jay (2002). The A List: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films. Da Capo Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-306-81096-1. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  18. ^ "100 Essential Films by The National Society of Film Critics".
  19. ^ "The 100 Greatest Foreign Language Films". bbc. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2021.


External links[edit]