"The Conformist" - Classic Italian Cinema

Essay by lcpvideomakerHigh School, 11th gradeA, February 2007

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The 1970 film "The Conformist", directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, details the life of an Italian fascist and his struggles to become what he perceives as normal. The movie begins with flashbacks to Marcello Clerigi's childhood. We see through an unusual sexual, social, and political upbringing Marcello has never truly established his own identity. He sets out to "construct his normalcy" by modeling himself after the average man. Bertolucci utilizes many techniques and scenes to reinforce Marcello's awkward assimilation process, in particular: the scenes on the dance floor and the scene where Marcello encounters Lino.

In Marcello's quest for normalcy he chooses to marry a woman named Giulia. For Marcello, Giulia is the epitome of mediocrity. After their marriage they leave to Paris so that Marcello can murder on of the leaders of the anti-fascist movement. This takes us to an essential scene in which Bertolucci reinforces Marcello's desire to assimilate.

As an intoxicated Giulia and Anna joyfully dance with one another at the club Marcello is visually disturbed by their conduct. This wild behavior is incongruent with his Fascist ideology. He turns to the professor and exclaims "They must stop dancing!" The professor rebuts "Why? They are both so pretty". The two men have very different lines of thought about what is socially acceptable. As the scene continues we see that Marcello is actually impressed by the festivities and cracks a smile. He wanders out onto the dance floor and is awkwardly surrounded by the group of merry-go-rounders. Marcello wants to enjoy himself with the rest of the group, but he does not know how. Bertolucci uses a high-angle shot with a wide lens to show the metaphorical nature of the scene. As Marcus Millicent describes in Italian Film in Light of Neorealism "[Marcello's] reluctance to join...