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Although it was supposed to be a documentary, Visconti put in a slight
line to achieve what a documentary would have done, AND
--He used no professional actors, just native Sicilian fishermen, and
villagers, to play all parts. -- The film uses no artificial lighting, no
sound enhancement, sound-effects, or dubbing.
-- It was filmed on location in, and around, the crumbling homes of the
villagers, and it was recorded in the Sicilian dialect (rather than proper
Italian), and although it has a documentary "look", Visconti shows the
exploitation of the poor by the capitalist middlemen so much more
effectively than any documentary could have done.
-- Also, while not the first neo-realist film of that post-war Italian genre, this was the first film to be described by the term: "neo-realist". --A brilliant film on all counts. I rated it "10".
A Marxist aristocrat, Count Don Luchino Visconti Di Morone was widely
praised for both the realism and vaguely politicized tone of his early
films, and the operatic sumptuousness of his later historical costume
dramas... Throughout his career, however, style dominated content; all
too often, the result was camp, decorative melodrama disguised as
solemn, socially significant art...
"La Terra Trema," an epic account of the hardship suffered by Sicilian fishermen, was even closer to Neo-realism, shot on location with a cast of nonprofessional actors living their lives on screen... Its somewhat simplistic Marxist message, that the peasants' real enemy was not Nature but exploitive businessmen, was in fact less indicative of Visconti's future and its use of a disintegrating family to mirror the social climate of Italy as a whole...
The conflicts, misery, poverty, joy, and anger in a fishing village are shown in a panoramic study of man and earth...
'The Earth will Tremble' is not political nor intends to teach... The film reveals... it doesn't judge...
The cinematography is outstanding, particularly the scenes with the fishermen at sea...
I saw this movie Friday night on TCM. I'd never heard of it, but I'm a neorealismo fan, so I watched. I'm sorry I didn't tape it, what an epic! Like "The bicycle thief," this movie uses real people, and almost feels like a documentary at times. I agree that the sentiments are rather marxist, but I have to admit that if I lived as these people do, I might be drawn to communism, too. There are some subtle (or maybe not so subtle) references to the politics of the times, wall posters about Mussolini and the hammer and sickle images painted on the walls. Oddly, this movie reminded me somewhat of "Man of Aran," the images are that stark, life is that bleak. The film is beautifully shot, and the story is wrenching. Watch it if you get the opportunity. It memorializes a way of life that is gone, and I'll bet there's not a single person who misses it.
Luchino Visconti's epic on a family living in the Sicilian fishing
village of Trezza, the Valastros, is a compelling story, told with
sincerity and skill, and for the outsider viewing into their world it's
at the least interesting and at its most heart-felt is rather
affecting. Narrators Visconti and Antonio Pietrangeli themselves are
outsiders to the world of dirt-poor fishermen who work their entire
lives to earn pittance for the wealthy wholesalers (it's based on a
novel, I Malavoglia- translated as Ill Will- by Giovanni Verga).
Their narration can hint the audience member on little details that wouldn't be known from the characters, however sometimes their voice-over, in such a documentary style (before this Visconti was among a group of directors for a documentary during world war 2 that is not listed on this site but it mentioned in the documentary My Voyage to Italy) can be a little deterring as they mention certain emotions the characters are feeling that we as the audience can determine right in the eyes.
The story tells of the Valastros, in particular 'Ntoni, an idealist who returns from fighting in the war with a much different view of the environment around him than what his elders would want to believe. Unlike his grandfather, who has worked for the wholesalers and not earned and saved a cent more or less than his children, he wants change in the way things are done, and soon gets enough money to build his own boat and to sell his own fish.
Things look optimistic, until nature intervenes in destroying the boat, leaving 'Ntoni without a job, the wholesalers laughing at him mercilessly and little by little loosing any respect he had in the village. His other family members also get time on the screen- two sisters who want to meet a man to marry, and how one is at the will of God and the other is at the will of the Don of the village, Don Salvatore; also a brother, who after losing his job becomes a smuggler bringing in cigarettes. Their stories, in a pacing that may have some wondering when it will end and some wondering if it can go on longer, lead up to a heartbreaking climax for each of them.
I learned shortly after viewing La Terra Trema that Luchino Visconti (I suppose it shouldn't have been much of a surprise considering the state Italy was in before, during, and after the war) was a lifelong member of the Communist party despite being raised in a wealthy environment in Northern Italy. While I had a feeling there was something about the way Visconti depicted the Volostros and the nature of the people and the village that seemed "for the working man", but I didn't really feel that the political intonations were a crutch to the overall execution of the film. Since one of the pin-points of neo-realism is to tell things as simply as they unfold in real life, no matter how downtrodden it can get, the focus of the fishermen versus the wholesalers is made more as a reflection of basic good versus evil, and it can appeal to those who don't want a strict tale of classes.
Its humanity is what shines through, and that is what should appeal to connoisseurs of neo-realism and Italian filmmaking; while I can't quite recommend it as much as The Bicycle Thief or Open City, I can recommend it as the first film people should see if they want to know and understand the work of Visconti, his operatic intonations with his players a graceful counterpart to his documentary techniques.
This moving slice of life has several acts and moves like an opera, but the
scenes are "neo-realistic" in the best sense.
All of Visconti's actors are from the Sicilian fishing village, but they were not acting--just portraying their lives. You care about these real people!
Family is everything--and it survives despite the buffeting by the storms, the stranglehold of the oligarchical wholesalers, and shortsightedness of the townspeople. We see the exploitation of the fishermen vividly and how most accept it as "God's will."
It also brings to mind the old joke: What is the difference between capitalism and communism? Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man, and communism is just the reverse.
In 1947, in Sicily near Catania, the fishermen in Aci Trezza have been
exploited by generations by the local middlemen. The young 'Ntoni
Valastro rebels against the economical situation of his poor family and
convinces the Valastro to mortgage their simple house in the Fidania
Bank in Catania to buy a fish boat of their own and never work again
for the wholesalers. In a stormy day, he decides to fish due to the
necessity of repaying the debt to the bank; however, the storm destroys
his boat and the dream of his family. Without any support and job,
'Ntoni sees the disintegration of his outcast family.
"La Terra Trema: Episodio del Mare" is a heartbreaking, bitter and cruel story of a family of fishermen that decides to change their poor economical situation facing the powerful exploiters. The Marxist "Red Count" Luchino Visconti directs and narrates this little masterpiece of the Italian Neo-Realism casting non-professional actors and actresses, actually fishermen and inhabitants of Aci Trezza. The abusive treatment of the greedy and idle wholesalers gives an idea of how workers were exploited in this period of history and the reason for the ideological fight of classes between Communism and Capitalism. In Brazil, this film was released on DVD by Versátil Distributor. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "A Terra Treme" ("The Earth Shakes")
The first time I had encountered the director Luchino Visconti was when
I was more and more into the Italian Neorealism, the movement that can
probably be considered one of the most genuine waves in European
cinema. Having seen Visconti's most popular movies, including IL
GATTOPARDO, L'OSSESSIONE, LA CADUTA DEGLI DEI or MORTE A VENEZIA as
well as his earlier productions, I started to understand his conception
of art in movie and it gradually appealed to me more. However, I
realized that Visconti was the aristocrat who became a member of the
Communist party representing the left wing of Italian artists. Even
this film made way for the Italian socialists, which, for me, is not a
very privileged information. But that is not the gist of my analysis.
The most important aspect for me is the artistic side of the whole
work, something in terms of which we evaluate LA TERRA TREMA nowadays.
LA TERRA TREMA, though not a top notch Neorealist work, is a film that resembles almost all the principles of Neorealism retained by the great directors: Rossellini, DeSica, Pasolini. At the same time, all of these aspects are still much appreciated and searched by many today's authors.
First, the cast consist of all non-professionals: simple fishermen of Sicily where, naturally, everyone has the role he/she knows how to perform in real life. And how they do in the movie: perfectly, the whole story is very authentic thanks to them. Sometimes, the performances are so well managed that you, as an experienced 21st century viewer, do not feel it's all acting. Moreover, they feel comfortable in the locations they know: so magical places of the Sicilian coast.
Second, the movie refers to the very realistic situations that were obvious in the Italy of that time. It was 1948 and the country was suffering the horrific consequences of WWII and the regime of "Il Duce" Mussolini. The tragic story of the Valastro family is something many people could empathize with at the time and, moreover, can still empathize nowadays. Ntonio, though formerly respected member of the community (Sicilian village of Acci Trezza) starts to lose everything. There comes a day when he has no job, is taken advantage of any time being no more respected. His brother Cola is on the verge of despair leaving the family to find a better future. Two sisters experience hardship as young women. The grandpa gets ill. The whole family is on the verge of total tragedy when they are forced to leave the house, their only property. The monotonous life gets even worse, turns into the life of poverty, helplessness and suffering. Is there a way to live a normal life in such circumstances?
Third, the whole movie is a profound development of characters within these very personal stories. Ntonio is an idealist who tells his brother that his love to his hometown has kept him there and will keep him till his death ("We were born here and we will die here"). At the same time, he is easily brought to despair (starts to spend the nights drinking in taverns). Cola is a youngster who respects his family but desires a better life. I'll never forget the scene he says "Farewell" to the picture of his family when sorrow is combined with fear and helplessness with desire. Mara is a very religious young woman who accepts sorrows and hardship claiming this all is the Will of God. The other sister, Lucia, is a normal girl, like every other; yet the tragic situation leads her to the cold acceptance of "male use." The little shining necklace seems to steal her heart.
Similarly to the top Neorealist movies, like GERMANIA ANNO ZERO or ROMA CITTA APERTA, LA TERRA TREMA focuses on individuals in the society, in the community at hard times. On the one hand, there are so many praying women at Valastro's house when the grandfather is being taken to Catania, to hospital; on the other hand, the Valastro family hear very bitter words "God has punished you for your pride!" from the same people. It is not the ostentation but solidarity of people that leads to better future, better life; it is the lack of solidarity that leads to hell on earth. That is beautifully executed in Ntonio's conversation with a simple girl on the shore at his past boat: "I'd gladly help you"... Politically and historically speaking, that was the point which gave way to socialist ideas.
But so far, I have not touched the most significant aspect why the film is so much worth seeing. Although it is pretty long, it is black and white, it has the narrator that may distract some of the modern viewers, LA TERRA TREMA is "like a loaf of bread to the poor", a wonderful gift for today's viewers who may see what a film may be like, how many messages it can convey, not from the political perspective only but from a simple empathy with humanity, which was most precious thing about Neorealism calling for change. Although these times are gone forever and some islands of poverty turned into isles of prosperity, this change is still so desirable...
See this! You'll not regret and don't be discouraged by its length and documentary like style. It's worth your search! By the way, one of the assistant directors of the movie was Maestro Franco Zeffirelli
It's hard to believe that I am the first person to comment on this
masterpiece at this website. One reason could be that it's not that easy to
see. Thank God for Turner Classic Movies, which is where I finally saw it.
I'm happy to see that there's a DVD available.
This is one of those amazing films that uses only non-professionals and in which they perform as well, if not better, than any professional could. The actors are the inhabitants of a small Sicilian fishing village. The film is cliche-ridden (the Marxist variety) and at times predictable. I didn't care about any of this. The film is a true epic about a few people trying to break out of their rut of exploitation and the wretchedness of their everyday living, and failing. The film thus achieves the status of true tragedy. This one shouldn't be missed.
1. This movie is likely to excruciate those who are not used to reading
fast, because the images are too great to be sacrificed for subtitles.
Even most of the Italian-speaking people have a hard time understanding
this Sicilian accent.
2. The other reason why La terra trema is found boring by many is that reality matters much more than drama to the neorealist director Luchino Visconti. So the audience shouldn't be passive while seeing some real lives going on, that is the only way to feel engaged.
3. The most notable advantage of the movie comes to attention right here. It is touching without bending over backwards for that purpose. You can feel connected to it and at the same time wonder where all that connection comes from. (The movie does not try hard to make you feel this way) It shakes your deepest emotions simply because all it has to do with is the reality of a human society, and also with the real nature for that matter.
4.Another important point here is Visconti doesn't let the fact that he believes in Socialism affect the reality of what he is portraying. The hammer and sickle on the wall in no way seems anything other than part of a neutral report. He reminds us of those journalists who succeed in providing us with an unbiased report regarding a massively resented dictator when we are pretty sure the journalist hates the dictator as much as we do.
5. All in all this is a great picture , of course it requires active audience who know what they want to get from the almost sheer reality pictured.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Luchino Visconti shot this remarkable neorealist movie with amateur
actors, who played their role sublimely. He tells a brutal story of a
naked struggle for survival of a family in a village of fishermen in
Sicily. The fishermen are confronted with a buyer's monopoly of a bunch
of wholesalers, who give them a minimum price for their catches ('the
poor always pay'). One fisherman tries to break the monopoly by
creating his own business. But, therefore he has to mortgage the
Luchino Visconti's movie is a Malthusian story: only the prosperous can love and marry. His movie is also a Marxist story. It sets the wholesalers (the capitalists) against the fishermen. When the wholesalers pool their money and buy new boats, the fishermen's only choice is to sell their labor force. Now, they don't even own the fish they have caught. The movie has a main message: only solidarity among the laborers can be a basis for a society of free associates.
Luchino Visconti was the assistant director during the shooting of the movie 'Toni' in which Jean Renoir used amateur actors. 'Toni' paints also the fate of (Spanish) journeymen in France. But, there is an essential difference between Jean Renoir's and Luchino Visconti's movie: Toni doesn't transcend the personal level of his characters (their love lives), while in 'La Terra Trema' the lives of the protagonists are embedded in a real general socio-economic environment.
Luchino Visconti shot a most memorable social drama, maintaining throughout the movie a most impressive emotional and typically local atmosphere. A must see.
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