Poor Sicilian fishers are exploited by fish wholesalers. One of the families is trying to escape them by being their own boss. But fate nobody helps them, and even fate is against them. Written by
A vivid representation of a fishermen's' community
The approach used in the story of this film is realism, which means that you get what you see. It depicts the life of the self-employed fishermen (actually families) in Sicily, somewhere in the first part of the twentieth Century. Life passes by in the old humdrum way, and becomes interesting only because Antonio, one of the fishermen, can no longer bear the exploitation by the fish merchants. Frankly, the viewer is not really convinced about the greediness of the merchants, because they look quite poor themselves. Anyway, Antonio decides to henceforth be his own merchant, and cash the profit. Of course some capital is required in order to pay for the fish processing and storage, and therefore Antonio takes a mortgage on his house. It soon turns out, that his business plan is rather risky, and his debt forces him to go fishing even in stormy weather. This results in being literally shipwrecked, and thereby losing his boat, his source of income. Although Antonio still has his warehouse full of fish, for some reason he can only sell these to the local merchants, who of course are keen to liquidate their former competitor. Antonio loses his house and lands in the deepest poverty. The merit of the film is probably the vivid representation of the village life in a fishermen's' community. Being a Dutchman the resemblance with the screen versions of Herman Heijermans' play "Op hoop van zegen" strikes me. There the fishermen are employed and sent out to the treacherous North Sea in the faulty brig of the owner. "De vis wordt duur betaald -- The fish is paid dearly", namely with the lives of the fishermen. Rumours circulate in the village that the owner had bribed the insurance inspector in order to approve of the brig. "La terra trema" was supported financially by the Italian communist party, and probably should hint at the class war between the fishermen and the merchants. Heyermans had the same aim, and succeeded, in particular due to the portrayal of the apathetic submission of the fishermen. Viewing "La terra trema" did not give me the same sympathy for the Sicilian fishermen. In fact Antonio himself seems to ruin his little enterprise, and after his failure falls into self-pity and wretched behavior's, as does his family. The viewer gets the impression that the merchants are indeed the more capable persons. I doubt that the PCI was very content with the result. On the other hand the choice of realism fits in neatly with the communist ideology.
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