Novecento/1900 (1976)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

1900 is an excellent epic directed by Bernardo Bertolucci that takes place in early 20th century Italy (from around the turn of the century to about the end of WWII). The story revolves around two friends who grow up together, Olmo the farm worker and Alfredo the wealthy landlord (both of which inherent their status from their respective families).

Their relationship (along later with Sutherland’s) is essentially a long commentary on class struggle and fascism.  As Fascism is on the rise, Olmo and the workers actively oppose it while Alfredo, who doesn’t like Attila (Sutherland), takes little action.  The role of the fascist as a protector of property(and thus the capitalist class itself) is demonstrated through the relationship between the main characters.

The method of the film is quite successful, as the conclusions the directer wants the view to draw are quite obvious, yet drawing those conclusions can only come from experiencing the relative positions that the “main 3” go through and how they affect each other.

The relationships between Olmo and Alfredo are not simple either.  By the end of the film once fascism has been defeated by war, Olmo attempts to set up a “people’s tribunal” to judge Alfredo.  The crimes that Alfredo, as a land owner and employer of peasant labor, are not traditional crimes that would hold water in any capitalist system but are instead a recognition that the relationship in production between the two classes and how Alfredo’s class steals from

Workers raise their long hidden red banner

Workers raise their long hidden red banner

the workers and lives in luxury while they suffer is itself a crime.  The optimistic ending, however, doesn’t last long as the united front comes along and disarms the Communists in Olmo’s town, thus making them unable to finally retake power.  The film then ends with Alfredo and Olmo fighting each other for what looks like years (obviously Bertolucci is taking artistic liberty here), which in a sense represents the problem of compromise and how it left the system in tact and had prolonged the overall struggle.

The aesthetics of the film are also quite successful here, the scenes countryside and the towns are quite stunning and really help to set the mood of the film.  And like most Bertolucci films I’ve seen, the shots and sequences are quite slow paced and not always right to the point.  That is of course his style, and for this film, really does give it an epic feel.

The mood of the film itself is something that is expressed through the relationships built in the film as an allegory for political and class struggle.  It really does help to understand the rise and nature of fascism.  It’s quite long but worth the investment in time.