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A mythic, Venice-like city is an appropriate backdrop for a film which must
have greatly offended European critics at the time who had thought of
Visconti as one of the pioneers of the new realism in Italian Cinema (and
indeed with Ossessione and La Terra Trema, he was!). But with this film
Visconti seems to have changed his idea of what he wants in a film: instead
of the pursuance of realism at all costs, we have a dream-like fairy tale
about fairy tales.
Mario (Marcello Mastroianni) meets Natalia (Maria Schnell) one night, and is entranced. But as they begin to talk, over a couple of nights, he falls in love with her, and realises that she is already in love with another man. Maria is obsessed with a fairy-tale man (Jean Cocteau's leading man Jean Marais), who up and left her a year ago without explanation and said he would return in a year, and if she still loved him, he would be there for her.
This film is evocative and beautiful - i'd love to see it in a clean theatrical print - especially the snow scenes at the end.
Its a very satisfying cinema experience, and one of Visconti's most beautiful films. 8/10.
Highlights: the dancing scene! Snow scenes are beautiful, but the dancing scene stands head and shoulders above the rest of the movie. Marcello is shy and introverted - he is sitting in a night club with dreamy Natalia. When couples start getting up and busting some very cool moves to Bill Haley and the Comets' Thirteen Women, Mario becomes nervous and starts talking to her about himself, talking around the fact that he's a shy person and doesn't like dancing and physical things... he likes dreaming, solitude... But when he sees how interested Natalia is by another man pulling some mean dance moves, things change. Great scene.
"The white nights" is a very fragile exquisite tale based on story of Dostoievsky. With the images extremely beautiful it tells the story of an ordinary young man Mario, who met an unusual, like from another century girl, fell in love with her and almost made her fall in love too and then lost her forever. Here two different worlds collide unambiguously - the modern, cold, indifferent stylized world and the old, more intimate and hearty one, and this collision makes many ironical and sad situations. Mastroiani plays one of his best role and looks like a real melancholic looser, Shell is eccentric, touching and gentle with her little hat and ridiculous gorgette ( dresses made by Piero Tosi seems to be the another participants of performance, so nice and expressive they are). Marais seems imperturbable like always and looks very mysteriously, a kind of fatal personage, incarnation of doom. In general film is very nice, gently and by the end tear-wringing (that's not bad indeed) and Visconti with his talent of turning usual realistic details into symbolic made this story even more beautiful then in a book.
Not so much a neo realist film but rather a dreamlike adaptation of a
Dostoyevsky short story, this one is a beautiful story of a fairy tale
romance and disappointment.
Mastroianni gives a wonderful performance as the third wheel on this love triangle. As he is the point of identification for the viewer, it is really difficult to say whether this one has a happy end or not...
Highly recommended especially for the ingenious combination of neo realist imagery and old world romantic storytelling.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lucino Visconti's "White Nights" (1957) - is an engaging, uplifting, and compelling screen adaptation of Dostoyevsky's short story. I applaud to Visconti's masterful and elegant direction - everything is exquisite in his masterpiece. The settings came from a fairy tale he moved his heroes to the dream like city that looked very much like Venice with its canals and bridges. Original story took place in 19th century St. Petersburg which always has been nicknamed "The Northern Venice". The film is set in the modern time. I was curious to see how Visconti would play the title. "White Nights" is the period of time in the beginning of June when the nights in St. Petersburg are very short. Alexander Pushkin described this time in one of his poems -"The morning rushes to catch the evening only giving darkness two short hours". Visconti's film takes place in the beginning of winter and during the last meeting between the heroes, the snow began to fall, giving the title and to the two final scenes new, deep, and very moving meaning. Is the ending happy or the sad one? I still don't know but what is certain that it is unforgettable. I also want to mention three lead actors who made this story so real, tender, sad, and poetic: Maria Shell as a desperate woman awaiting the return of her fairy tale prince - Jean Cocteau's leading man Jean Marais and lonely, shy clerk Marcello Mastroianni who was happy once if only for a few short minutes.
This film is very good indeed. Visconti confirms what everybody knows:
he is a master! The plot is based on a Dostoievski tale, where a love
triangle is explored in the minimum psychological details. Actually, it
shows the impact of a powerful passion on human behavior, it tries to
explore the incredible power that love has on people's behavior, mainly
when passion and irresistible attraction are present. The author tries
to show that we are capable of believing anything as well as having
childish attitudes when we are confronted with passion. Moreover
Visconti is very elegant when dealing with all the elements, combining
them with great precision.
Also it is fine to see Maria Schell and Mastroianni acting.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a writer I've gotten into heavily recently, and I
couldn't be happier to have seen Luchino Visconti's adaptation of his
short story (not yet read by me) as the first. The very essential,
human search for happiness with a one true love, that those who may not
have much money may at least find some kind of relief from the world in
each other's company, is at the heart of Dostoyevksy's stories. And
while often filled with sorrow, decay, and with enough melodrama to
sink a ship, this spirit is then given catharsis when the good that
comes in through the dark times it's something to really cling to.
Visconti has his own style already taking on Dostoyevsky's work, and I
wondered going into it if the director of another great adaptation,
Ossessione, could pull it off. For me, it may even be better than that
film; Le Notti Bianche gives us characters who are not overly
complicated or with nefarious desires. If anything, these are the kinds
of characters that I wish were in movies more often, flaws and all.
Marcello Mastroianni is also, for me, a really pleasant surprise seeing him in this film. Regrettably the only films I've seen him in are the early ones he made with Fellini, where his persona is cool, detached, and he could do his ultra suave &/or depressed and unchained characters effortlessly. With the character of Mario, Mastroianni is playing just an ordinary guy, with a low paying job and nothing special going for him in life. But if nothing else he is what most women in real life would look for in men, with compassion, sensitivity, but also sensible and with some of the minor flaws of being a nice guy. With the character of Natalia, Mario meets a woman whom he falls for hard, and wants to see again after a chance encounter. Maria Schnell is perfect against Mastroianni, as she has that kind of face and look in her eye (for lack of a better comparison) of any given American melodrama, only a bit more genuine. She's basically been waiting, as she tells, for a year for the man who will whisk her away from all of her troubles. But will he? Will Mario come through on a letter? What happens through the course of an unsure night?
Visconti poises these two against a backdrop completely staged, brilliantly in fact, and shot by the great Giussepe Rotunno with the kind of visual splendor that in its own way is on par with Visconti's the Leopard. It's not filmed in the real world, and the melodrama in the film is that of a very cinematic- or maybe theatrical- nature, but because it's an ultimately believable one the atmosphere gets heightened. Topped with Nino Rota's elegant score, many a wide shot shows Mario and Natalia on their walks along the streets, and then the close-ups work just as well. Best of all is a quasi ice breaker of Visconti's by doing a dance number in a bar, adding a sweet, if dated, levity that acts as the last mark before the story turns, and turns some more. What drew me in most about Le Notti Bianchi is how Visconti makes this a story of pure emotions, but one that is not at all sappy or trashy or whatever. Like with many of Dostoyevsky's characters, even through their misguided wants and feelings and the sense of anguish that may come to them (or not), we care about them. If ever a director, who started in neo-realistic roots, took a 180 and made it just as dramatically satisfying, it's here. One of the best films of 1957.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most interesting movies come from short stories, as Luchino Visconti
clearly demonstrates with his "Le Notti Bianchi". based on a tale by
Dostoyevsky. The Russian atmosphere is cleverly transported to an
Italian town in winter. The film is enhanced by Giuseppe Rotunno
brilliant camera work in a movie that was shot entirely in a studio. In
fact, the director salutes Cinecitta in the credits because he must
have been completely amazed by the look of the end product.
The story deals with fantasy and reality. One night Mario, a young man, returns to town in a bus. He notices a distressed and beautiful woman who appears to be in the process of committing suicide by jumping from a bridge. Natalia, the young woman is living in despair because a man who conquered her heart has gone away with the promise he will be back in a year's time. Natalia, who at first doesn't respond to Mario, finds in him a kind soul, but her heart belongs to the man she waits for.
Marcello Mastroianni's Mario is fine. He was at one of the most interesting periods of his career when he worked in the picture. The best thing in the movie has to be the scene at the night club where he is trying to get Natalie to dance with him. He makes quite a spectacle of himself dancing to Bill Bailey and the Comets by himself while the other dancing couples admire him.
Maria Schell, coming from another school of acting, seems lost at times, as though overwhelmed by the Italian cast around her. Her Natalia has equal parts of sadness and innocence. Jean Marais, one of the best French actors of his generation is seen as the tenant who steals Natalia's heart. Clara Calamai, who had worked in "Ossessione" with Visconti has some excellent moments as a prostitute.
Nino Rota's atmospheric music blends well with the context of the film. Ultimately the success of "Le Notti Bianche" belongs to Luchino Visconti who saw greatness in the text by Dostoyevsky.
In a cold night, the lonely ordinary man Mario (Marcello Mastroianni)
is wandering along the empty streets of Livorno after spending the day
with the family of his employer. While crossing a bridge, Mario sees a
beautiful woman crying and he starts a conversation with her. The
reluctant Natalia (Maria Schell) finally accepts his companion to walk
her home and they schedule to meet each other on the next day at the
same place at 10:00 PM. The romantic and naive Natalia tells Mario that
she is Slav and lives with her grandmother. They survive repairing
fancy carpets and renting a room in their house. When an unknown tenant
(Jean Marais) rents the room, Natalia immediately falls in love for
him. However, the man asks for one year apart to raise enough money to
get married with her and promising to return and meet her on the bridge
where Mario met her in the previous night. She gives a letter to Mario
to deliver to the stranger but Mario throws it away in the canal. On
the next night, Natalia meets Mario by chance and they spend the
snowing night together, dancing, chatting and drinking, and Mario falls
in love for her; but while walking back home, the couple sees a man
alone on the bridge.
"Le Notti Bianche" is one of the most beautiful romances I have ever seen. The melancholic, utopist and timeless love story is a different film from the genius Luchino Visconti, based on the novel of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and was shot in magnificent sets that rebuilt a non- faithful quarter of Livorno in the Cinecittá in the opposite direction of the Italian Neo-Realism. The chemistry between Marcello Mastroianni in one of his best roles and the gorgeous and sweet Maria Schell with her delightful smile in the role of a dreamer is amazing and one of the greatest attractions of this lovely film. The haunting cinematography in black and white is comparable to the German Expressionism with the use of lighting and shadows. Last but not the least, the unforgettable music score of Nino Rota completes this stunning and unknown masterpiece. The DVD released in Brazil by Versátil Dstributor has restored images and perfect sound that highlight the wonderful cinematography. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Noites Brancas" ("White Nights")
Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's classic novel
fits in perfectly with post-WWII Italy. Marcello Mastroianni and Maria
Schell play people from dissimilar backgrounds who meet one night in an
Italian town and strike up a relationship.
An important aspect is their backgrounds. He has moved in from out of town, but has quickly gotten to know part of the town. While she has lived in the town her whole life, her grandmother has kept her close and never allowed her to see the other side of the town; she earlier struck up a relationship with another man (Jean Marais), but he left and she doesn't know whether or not he'll return. So then, Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell meet on the bridge (the link not only between the two sides of the town, but between the characters' different worlds).
Another representation of contrasts between the separate worlds is shown by the different types of music. In one scene, Maria Schell and her grandmother go to see "Barber of Seville", one of the all-time classic operas. In the restaurant scene, someone plays a Bill Haley song, emblematic of modern music. Luchino Visconti was no fan of rock and roll, but probably felt that it would make for an evocative scene in this case.
But anyway, "Le notti bianche" (or "White Nights") remains an important part of Italy's cinematic history. I hope to see more of Visconti's movie's in the future.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You know, I'm really surprised that I didn't like this movie. It's
major theme about the difference in reality and fantasy, along with its
stunningly beautiful black and white cinematography, is precisely the
sort of thing I look for in film. And yet, I didn't ultimately find it
It's a very smart and well-written movie. The ways in which the character's aspirations and yearning mix with the reality of the situation is very precise and real, speaking both to the original writer of the short story, Dostoyevsky (whose writing resembles the quiet brooding of the male protagonist in many ways) and Visconti's own skill with directing and camera work. In fact, the very self-aware staging of the movie is what makes it easily a majestic cinematic experience, one that really shouldn't be missed. This movie could be watched and easily stay interesting just paying attention to the lighting of the shots and the composition of the frames.
Indeed, for a film surrounded in all sorts of romance and yearning, it's very detached, often, from the characters. Close-ups are almost nonexistent and for the most part the camera seems most happy to stay far away, with faces barely recognizable within the mist.
It's everything a film goer would love, which is why I find it odd that I didn't much care for the characters. The male protagonist I can understand, and even sympathize with, even as far as his attraction to the female. She, however, is too out of it, completely unreal, almost an idealized notion of something everybody's ideal would be to avoid. In short, I couldn't stand her, or watching her, or anything she did.
There were two very strong moments in the film that, for me, made it worth the time spending to see. The first is the dancing scene, where Marcello Mastrianni lets go and changes from the shy but humble courter to one of those virile, energetic youngsters, showing off and mugging. The other is the very end... of which I won't describe for spoiler purposes, but which ultimately makes Mastrianni's character someone we can all relate to.
Thus, I can honestly say that this film is magnificent, and that many people should go out and watch it. It's beautiful, contains strong acting and directing, has some very poignant scenes, and has a remarkable control over mise-en-scene. I just really don't like it.
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