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Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Le notti di Cabiria (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 26 May 1957 (Italy)
A waifish prostitute wanders the streets of Rome looking for true love but finds only heartbreak.



(screenplay), (story) | 4 more credits »

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview:
François Périer ...
Oscar D'Onofrio (as François Perier)
Franca Marzi ...
Dorian Gray ...
Aldo Silvani ...
The wizard
Ennio Girolami ...
Amleto, 'il magnaccia'
Mario Passante ...
Uncle of Amleto
Christian Tassou
Amedeo Nazzari ...
Alberto Lazzari


Cabiria is a wide-eyed waif, a streetwalker living in a poor section of Rome where she owns her little house, has a bank account, and dreams of a miracle. We follow her nights (and days): a boyfriend steals 40,000 lire from her and nearly drowns her, a movie star on the Via Veneto takes her home with him, at a local shrine she seeks the Madonna's intercession, then she meets an accountant who's seen her, hypnotized on a vaudeville stage, acting out her heart's longings. He courts her. Is it fate that led to their meeting? Is this finally a man who appreciates her for who she is? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The story of a betrayed but unquenchable little Roman street-walker.




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

26 May 1957 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Nights of Cabiria  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$38,988 (USA) (3 July 1998)


$752,045 (USA) (30 October 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (restored)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Italian censorship visa #23742 delivered on 13 March 1957. See more »


The position of the family outside the house changes between when Cabiria first opens the door and when she leaves the house. See more »


Giorgio: [in Italian]
[first lines]
Giorgio: Go over there.
Maria 'Cabiria' Ceccarelli: [in Italian] It's beautiful. Come on.
See more »


Referenced in Cinema Falado (1986) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Life is a river: not gently flowing, but a hostile swallower of the marginal.
1 September 1999 | by (Dublin, Ireland) – See all my reviews

Gorgeous early Fellini, often considered the mid-point in his career, between the more obviously reflective, supposedly realistic early work, and the bleak extravaganzas that followed. But Fellini was never a neo-realist in the dull way Rossellini was: his use of landscape was always heavily symbolic or subjective. Here Cabiria lives in the middle of a bleak wasteland, which perhaps serves to figure the emptiness of her life, the sterility of life for women in macho Italy, or a comment on post-fascist Italy itself.

It doesn't really matter. The sentiments of the film are actually quite trite - women are treated badly in Italy, etc. What's riveting and astonishing is not the experiences of Everywoman, but the experiences of one particular woman. Although there is a great variety of locales, and Cabiria seems to be always moving forward, the film is actually a melodrama. Cabiria never escapes, whatever her adventures, wherever she goes, she always ends up where she started, at home. Even when she finally sells her home for a supposed new life, her last (in the film; we just know the circle will never be broken) mirrors her first in a depressing circularity.

Yet the film, for all its melancholy, is anything but depressing. Fellini is most famous for being an indulger of frail male egos, but CABIRIA's strength lies in its imaginative sympathy with its heroine. The film's structure mirrors her situation - the film has no plot as such, just an accumulative series of self-contained episodes which follow the same pattern: escape, hope, betrayal. In each episode, the further Cabiria moves away form her 'neo-realist' base, the more dream-like (verging on the fantastic) the film becomes, as if she is stepping into an enchanted world (this is made literal when she follows the actor into the nightclub, like some mythic warrior entering the dragon's lair). And each time she gives into the dream world, the illusion is rudely shattered - the scene at the hypnotist's is as heartbreaking as anything in CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. So while the reality/illusion dichotomy is facile as an idea, it is extraordinarily powerful as cinema experienced through character.

Fellini's filming is as beautiful as anything in 50s cinema, that decade mirabilis: more restrained and grounded than later, with less obvious flourish, but the mixture of realism and dream is made all the more convincing with the gentle, coaxing camera movements, beguiling us as well as the heroine, but with the strange editing, and sometimes disruptive composition giving us a distance she can never have.

Giuletta Masina gives the most sublime performance by an actress in Italian cinema- an exuberant mixture of hope and resignation; her gorgeous big eyes not quite ready to give up yet, even at the end, although the submitting to the youthful racket seems as hopelessly bleak as 8 1/2. Her seemingly unprepossessing body is actually an instrument of unparalelled grace, and the comparisons with Chaplin are not unwarranted - when you see this performance you'll realise how unexpressive most actors' bodies are.

The Chaplin model is not always helpful - there is a mawkishness and emotional manipulation towards the climax that almost grates, but by then you so adore Cabiria, and so hate everybody else that thought doesn't really come into it (although doesn't it seem that many male viewers seem to prefer her as helpless). Throw in a lovely, playful Nino Rota score and you're in movie heaven.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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