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The railroad engineer Andrea Marcocci has been working with his partner and friend Gigi Liverani for thirty years and feels happy and proud with his work, drinking wine after hours with his friends in a bar owned by the former railroad man Ugo. Andrea is married with Sara and his young son Sandro is very close to him; however Andrea has issues with his unemployed son Marcello and with his pregnant daughter Giulia, whose boy-friend Renato Borghi was forced to marry her. When a suicidal crosses the tracks of his train in a curve, Andrea feels deeply affected by the accident and almost collides with another train. The railroad company investigates the accident and steps Andrea down from his position. The domestic life of Andrea is also affected by his aggressive behavior and Marcello and Giulia leave home. Later Andrea also leaves home and starts to drink until the day Sandro visits his father in a bar. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The disintegration of a family....told semi Neo-Realistically.
I am pretty sure you could interpret "Il Ferroviere" ("Man of Iron" or "The Railroad Man") multiple ways. On the basic level, it's about a seemingly average working-class family who, through the course of the film, disintegrates. On the other hand, I am sure that many seeing the film might see it as an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Italian family. Whether the writer and director intended this to be the case is anyone's guess, though I am sure it could easily be seen both ways. Of course, the film ALSO could be a story about hope.
As I mentioned above, the Marcocci family seems pretty ordinary. The father is an engineer for the railroad and two of his children are grown and one is still a small boy. Through the course of the film, you learn more and more about the family and ultimately the people within it slowly lose control and the family unit is at stake. First, you see that the father drinks a bit too much. Then, you learn that he's a bit of a bully--with the old fashioned idea that the father, Andrea, is the dictator (albeit sometimes benevolent) in the household. This is actually a pretty 'normal' style of parenting in the day. Not healthy but probably not that unusual. He occasionally slaps around his wife and his kids because to Andrea that is how a father keeps order. But the family has had enough of the control and violence and rebellion begins creeping into the seemingly happy household. Will the family survive and rebuild? Or, will the worst happen? I could easily talk more about this, but really think you should just see the film.
The film is very interesting because it does something very unusual. At times, the film shows from the viewpoint of the director (who also played Andrea, by the way)--sort of a neutral observer. But the, in an odd twist, the young child narrates at times--and I really liked this because although he only looked about 7 year-old, he was VERY astute and really seemed to have a great understanding of what was happening around him much of the time. So, while Pietro Germi directed and starred in the film, the one who later ending up upstaging him was the boy, Sandrino (Edoardo Nevola) and this made the film very unusual.
Now as for the style of this film, I've seen it described as an Italian Neo-Realist picture. While some might agree, I am not so certain. It's almost like a Neo-Neo-Realist film. Let me explain. In the 1940s, Italian directors like Rosselini and De Sica made some wonderful films about working class people. But just because a film is about these people doesn't make it a Neo-Realist film. They also had to be acted exclusively or almost exclusively by non-actors. Perhaps the lead could be an established actor (such as Ingrid Bergman in "Stromboli"), but the rest of the cast or nearly all of them should be non-professionals in natural settings. However, most of the characters in "Il Ferroviere" had been in other films and were quite experienced. This is NOT a complaint--this IS a good film. But it isn't exactly like the earlier films--mostly because with the mid-1950s, Italians (who had been in financial ruin since WWII) could now afford paid actors and even nice sets if needed! So, in essence, the Neo-Realists stopped making these films because they could afford to make prettier and more polished films--and the public probably demanded this as well. I am sure this was liberating for the filmmakers, but some of these earlier and 'rougher' films were masterpieces (such as "The Children Are Watching Us" and "Umberto D.") and I really wished they'd continued making them.
So what did I think of this not-quite-Neo-Realist film? Well, I loved it and can live with the fact it isn't 'pure' Neo-Realism because it is a very well made film. However, I need to tell you up front that it started very, very slowly and I could see someone losing interest. Stick with this one for many reasons. The acting is great, the direction amazing AND the ending is terrific--thanks, inexplicably, to little Sandrino!! I also loved that although some folks seemed bad in this film, you COULD understand them and they weren't all bad--like most real people. Well worth your time. And, so good I even considered giving it a 10...though didn't because I almost never give movies a score that high.
By the way, in no way is this meant as a criticism, but as an American I can't help but notice that in so many old Italian films people seemed so incredibly emotional and loud. This is NOT criticism, but I was wondering if this is a true portrait of the people or perhaps a bit of a cliché. I honestly don't know and would love your input. I just know that few American families are quite THIS intensely emotional--which may or may not be a good thing.
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