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As satisfying as the best classic novels; shame about that touch of political revisionism
Asa_Nisi_Masa229 January 2006
All in all, I loved Bertolucci's 1900. By the end of it (I watched the uncut, 318 minute version and it was an effortless, engrossing, never over-long experience), I found myself feeling as satisfied as someone who's just finished reading one of those wonderful, very long classic novels. There are, however, some major flaws, not just in narrative structure but also in content, and this is why I've given it "just" a 9/10. It's rather disjointed and all over the place, like a huge, gangly foal rather than a harmoniously-formed horse.

However, I don't agree with one accusation I heard that was leveled at it, regarding its change of tone. In my view it was unavoidable and appropriate when dealing with a historic period going from the beginning of the 20th century to the rise to power of Mussolini (1922), and finally to the culmination of full-blown Fascist oppression. The "change of tone" in the film perfectly captured the profound and shocking changes that swept over Italy, as if bitten by something that had made it go mad.

My main problem with the film, however, was of content rather than structure: the over-simplification of its politics, not to mention the inaccuracy in the way it portrays the reasons for the rise of Fascism. These smack of just a little too much historical revisionism even for a tendentially left-wing person like me. But then, 1900 was made in the 70s, smack bang in the middle of a decade in which the Italian left wing had a strong hold on the country's artistic and cultural institutions. After decades of poverty, ignorance and forced silence, these institutions voiced their views with a more earnest tone than they would have had if they'd never been repressed. Pasolini, Bertolucci, Moravia and several others producing art during the 50s-70s in Italy are a prime example of this kind of voice. Inevitably, it was tinged with a political agenda – it couldn't have been otherwise, as political freedom was a new toy and everyone was so keen to play with it.

Bertolucci's film would have us believe that the rich landowners (represented here by the Berlinghieri – Robert De Niro's character's family) were responsible alone for sponsoring the Fascists. Keen to maintain the country in an archaic state of feudalism with the poor, ignorant multitudes working their estates as semi-slaves, they encouraged or turned a blind eye to the violent cruelty of the blackshirts. They employed them as "guard dogs" (as De Niro's character Alfredo refers to Attila, Donald Sutherland's Fascist bully character at one point), giving them official charges as managers of their estates and oppressors of any sign of rebellion, etc. Though this has effectively happened, a more objective historic version will take into account that for Fascism to spread so rapidly and so well, it must have had some hold on the "common people", too. Just consider that the rich landowners were a tiny, tiny minority of the population and not all were sympathetic to Mussolini – originally a Socialist himself. The rich often supported the monarchy and/or church instead (and Mussolini aspired to a lay state, not a religious one). It was indeed so many of the common men and women of Italy who responded well to the young Mussolini, who was neither particularly cultured nor a member of the elite, yet was a charismatic go-getter who could speak to the crowds in a way that made sense to them for the first time ever. The landowners and aristocrats, decadent and totally out of touch from reality (as Bertolucci's film shows so well), had no idea how to relate to the masses. In contrast, Mussolini wanted to harness the energy of the multitudes, giving them a sense of worth for the first time ever. What a cruel irony this turned out to be for all those people!

What Bertolucci's film is successful at putting across is the fact that neutrality, turning a blind eye to and staying passive to Fascism was in itself responsible for allowing it to thrive. ****SPOILERS****: Alfredo does nothing to stop Attila and his stooges beat Olmo, Gèrard Depardieu's character, to a bloody mess, despite the fact he knew that Olmo was innocent of having killed the child at the wedding party. This scene is so effective in creating a sense of frustration in the viewer. Watching that scene, it comes naturally to ask oneself: "Why didn't anyone do anything to stop it?" EXACTLY! ****END OF SPOILERS.****

Regarding the accusation leveled at the uncut version of the film containing pornographic sequences: I thought pornography's sole purpose was to titillate and arouse. Do any scenes in this movie try to achieve this? Most certainly not! Naked human bodies can be representative of so much more than just sex. They are not just about the degree of their ability to arouse or otherwise, but also about a whole other spectrum of human states and feelings. Strength, vulnerability, tenderness, compassion, closeness, distance, receptiveness and whatever else is sometimes just not possible to express in so many lines of dialogue. Why shouldn't a sexual encounter – even one featuring genitals in view – speak volumes about so many other aspects of men and women's humanity?

I could write so much more about this movie! Though not as mesmerisingly beautiful to look at as Bertolucci's 1970 film Il Conformista, it is none the less a testament to Vittorio Storaro's genius photography once again. I will probably be watching this movie many more times and discovering more layers, more beauty and even more imperfections… which is all worthwhile when confronted with such amazing material. Whoever's been comparing 1900's portrayal of Fascism with the way it was dealt with in Il Conformista isn't being entirely fair: the latter takes a far more intellectual approach (after all, Fascism was a multi-faceted phenomenon) and is a less ambitious film anyway, therefore less likely to fail.
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Under-rated epic
David_Niemann3 July 2003
"1900" follows the lives of two friends (although sometimes they seem more like enemies!) born on the same day in a beautiful part of Italy. Olmo is born a bastard to peasant farmers and Alfredo is the son of a wealthy businessman. We watch their lives unfold with vivid cinematography and lush visuals of the exceptionally beautiful countryside. The movie jumps forward, to the end of World War 1, and Olmo returns home after fighting. And essentially the film follows the exploits of the two protagonists as they deal with love, friendship, money, death and the evils of war.

The film unfolds like a finely crafted book, taking its time to tell its story.

Unfortunately, the version that I watched was horrendously dubbed. It was so bad my brother couldn't continue watching. I tried to look past this major fault, as I started to love the film's story and visuals, and it does get better, but I'd be extremely disappointed to find out a subtitled version doesn't exist. And to make matters worse, it was also a Pan & Scan version. This doesn't bother me too much if I'm watching, say 'Mrs. Doubtfire', but "1900" is definitely a wide-screen movie. Some scenes were practically ruined as characters are framed to the extreme right or left. For example, at the beginning where Olmo lays on the train line, I couldn't see him in the wide shot! I couldn't see what was going on. Terrible! And the version I watched came in at about 4 hours and 35 minutes. So it was a cut version, and this is blindingly obvious. The cuts are dreadful. This has to be some of the worst editing I have ever seen in my whole movie viewing life.

But for all these problems (easily solvable problems that have nothing to do with the movie itself (unless the dub is the original)) I fell in love with this movie. I didn't really notice the hours passing by; the story and the characters suck you into their world, and don't let go until the final credits roll. And even then they are stuck in your head, along with the more memorable scenes. I couldn't help but be reminded of my own childhood, even when the scenes had no context to my memories. For instance, the simple setting of workers ploughing a field bought back memories of playing in a big dirt mound in our backyard as a child, or beautifully lit scenes at sunset; I could almost feel the warmth. These memories made me feel really good, and whether it was intended or not to remind the audience of their childhoods, the film certainly had this wondrous effect on me.

I was quite shocked with some of the scenes in this film, especially the rape scene. While there is no sex shown at all (at least in this version), the crying eyes say more than any words or images could. You should be warned this film has some pretty graphic violence and contains a few explicit sex scenes. But the sex scenes are refreshingly realistic, as opposed to Hollywood's fraudulent version of sex.

The acting is, for the most part, admirably handled. Robert De Niro is convincing as the rich son with a poor peasant as his best friend. This role could have descended into cliché, but De Niro steers it clear of any such event. Towards the end of the film De Niro's performance is terrific. It's remarkable that in the same year that this was made, De Niro played a certain Travis Bickle in the seminal 'Taxi Driver.' 1976 was certainly De Niro's year! Gerard Depardieu is wonderful as Olmo. I have never seen a movie of Depardieu's where he was young, and I must say he was very handsome in his day! His performance elicits emotion without settling for sentimentality. The supporting cast do a good job. Burt Lancaster is both charming and divine, yet in one scene I was quite uncomfortable as to where it was going to lead. But he portrays this without the cliché of a `dirty-old-man' but rather a lonely man who may not remember where the line of decency may now lie. Donald Sutherland is disgusting beyond description. No, not his acting, but the character he plays. I haven't seen too many of Sutherland's films (unfortunately, off the top of my head I can only recall 'Fallen') but I'm keen to see more of his work, as his acting here is top notch. And the hunchback (sorry, can't remember his name) is delightfully endearing. Only some small characters have questionable acting talents, but in a film with so many bit parts this may well be expected.

The word 'epic' seems to imply greatly to this film. While the scope and size of the film is epic, the film relies heavily on the lives of the main protagonists. In a way this is an intimate epic, if such a thing could exist.

This is an excellent film that is highly recommended for people interested in Italian history, the landscape of Italy and beautifully crafted films. This particular version is recommended to people interested in gaining evidence that Pan & Scan is the work of Satan and that dubbing should be a sin.

If you enjoyed the films `Schindler's List' and `La Vita é Bella', then I'm sure you'll get something out of this film.

You shouldn't be turned off by the long running time of this film, you get so engrossed with the story the time just flies by. This is certainly an under-rated classic, treated poorly by some versions.

10/10 If in wide-screen, un-cut and subtitled. 9/10 If Pan & Scan, cut and dubbed.

But as I have to give one overall score, I'd have to say 10/10.
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A long and good picture
miguelvitorino5 December 2003
One of the most perfect historic contemporary pictures ever made. Wonderful performances of the actors Robert de Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Burt Lancaster and Donald Sutherland. This film tells us a story of two mans (Alfredo and Olmo) born in the same day back in the beginning of the twentieth century - Alfredo is a landowner, Olmo is a peasant- and their relation with friendship, love, politics. ( I think this is a film about how friendship can be true in a cruel half century that was the fist half os the "novecento").

There is a Marxist view about life and about cinema itself in this Bertolucci film: the two main characters, Alfredo and Olmo, symbolize the strike between the two classes of the capitalism - the high bourgeosie that owns the land where live the proletarian. The picture tries to prove that their lives are different in the way that their different social condition can interfere. In the beginning Alfredo and Olmo are very close, because they are only child. Alfredo tries to be like Olmo. He sees in his friend the freedoom that he hasn't. He wants to be a socialist.

I recommend this picture to all who like good cinema.
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A beautiful European achievement with Hollywood stars.
wallner-322 June 2004
The cast list alone is fabulous:Burt Lancaster, Sterling Hayden, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Gerard Depardieu, the best of Italian artists, the incandescent Dominque Sanda, at her prime. The production team: Bertolucci as director, the DOP is Storaro, the music by Ennio Morricone. How much would such a production cost today? $100 million? $200 million? How could you fail with such a line up? Well the film was long, and there were several versions around. It played at art houses in two parts. It was a co-production, (always an ominous sign) still there isn't a DVD available. (Although I saw a laser disc version in Jakarta some 7 years ago which I taped). Is the film beautiful? Yes. Does it sound wonderful? Yes. Does it deal with large important themes across generations? Yes. So how come it doesn't knock everybody's socks off? It should, that much I believe. Its themes of socialism/communism versus fascism across 50 years or so of Italian history don't sit well with American audiences. The two political systems are personified by two sons of the estate, one rich, one poor.Such a subtle (Or not if you are from North Zanesville)device is difficult to reconcile if you are used to a hamburger menu. Many audiences want a such a simple menu- a guy falls in love, gets married, the mob kill her, he takes revenge and kills the mob. Life is a hamburger. But we in Europe know that Life is not like that, it comes with grey areas, imperfections, flaws,nuances.

So the first disagreement is about politics. The second is the length of the movie; what actually are you watching, and where can you get the real longest possible version? That again nobody seems to know. The third is the lack of a DVD. That would make money and re-establish the film as a classic among the video stores to all the believers and make a new audience fall in love with this flawed masterpiece. Flawed, but still a masterpiece. So many people have not heard about it, so they don't know any better. There are some staggeringly beautiful shots that have lingered in my mind for 28 years- pure Storaro, many shot in golden hour- the boy with frogs in his hat, the countryside estate,the hunchback jester moaning about the death of Verdi,all accompanied by a typical Morricone oboe-driven melody with great intelligence and pride. Bravissimo!
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A Long and Beautiful Movie
claudio_carvalho24 June 2003
A too much long but beautiful movie, showing the political changes in Italy in the Twentieth Century. These changes are presented and reflected through the friendship of Alfredo (Robert De Niro) and Olmo (Gerard Depardieau), from the end of World War I to the end of World War II, from the ascent of the Fascism to its decline and the ascent of the Socialism. Alfred and Olmo were born in the same day and in the same place, landowner and peasant respectively. As far as they grow up, Bertolucci presents the changes in the political scenario in Italy, affecting the relationship between these two friends. The film is a little exhaustive, but it deserves to be watched more than one time. Recommended to viewers who like European movies and particularly Italian history and Bertolucci. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "1900"
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Historic Masterpiece
eibon091 November 2000
1900(1976) begins with the defeat of the fascist regime in Italy by the allies. The film then flashes back to 1900 with the birth of Alfredo and Olmo who belong to different social classes. It follows the lives of the grandfathers as well as the growth of their two grandchildren. Alfredo and Olmo becomes friends as young boys.

Alfredo is someone who prefers to hang out with Olmo's social class then his own. Alfredo's grandfather kills himself and Olmo's grandfather dies of old age. Olmo joins the military and returns at the end of World War 1. A new helping hand is hired by Alfredo's father named Attila who later becomes a member of the Fascist party.

Alfredo goes off adventures with his new wife Ada and the Fascist regime's battles with the Socialist becomes worse. Alfredo and Olmo develops a love/hate relationship and Olmo exiles from his home town to avoid being caught by the blackcoats. The film then returns to the year of 1945. 1900(1976) finishes in 1976 with Alfredo and Olmo as grandfather figures.

1900(1976) does a good job in taking a narrative look at the first fifty years of the 20th Century. The film begins during the period of a new age. The film follows the early rise of the Socialist Party in Northern Italy. It describes the struggle between landowners and socialist supporters.

This movie also is good at showing the rise and fall of the landowning class. 1900(1976) contains a scene which describes how the Fascist Party came into being in Italy. The landowners are the ones who planted the seeds of fascism and helped it grow to almost all powerful proportions. The film begins with birth, progresses through life, and ends in death.

1900 is controvsial in its full uncut frame of 312minutes. There were many scenes deemed to be offensive that were cut from the motion picture. One such scene is the menage a trois with Alfredo, Neve(Stevania Casini), and Olmo. Another controvsial sequence is the rape and graphic murder/torture of a young boy at the hands of the fascist Attila.

The art direction is beautifully filmed with a historic touch of Northern Italy. The filmmakers presents Italy during the early to mid 20th Century as a country whose identity is always changing. The motion picture gives the viewer an idea of what it might have been like in Italy during the first half of the last Century. The actors give a realistic performance and behave like the people of that era.

1900(1976) is comparable to Bertolucci's award winning movie, The Last Emperor(1987). Both take a look at middle aged men and flashback to their childhood days. Both Alfredo and Pu Yi are Puppets of the system as they have no real authority to behold and are just figure heads. Finally, Alfredo and Pu Yi are part of a power structure that falls apart before they are able to establish themselves as strong and powerful leaders.

Bernardo Bertolucci gives another excellent directorial performance. Vittorio Storaro does a brilliant job as the director of photography. Gerald Depardieu gives one of his top performances as Olmo(this is when he was slender and before he became known for his olfish looks). Robert De Niro's performance as Alfredo is widely overlooked by his chilling portrayal of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver(1976).

Bertolucci did back to back films with two of the greatest actors in film history(Marlon Brando{Last Tango in Paris}) and (Robert De Niro{1900}). Donald Sutherland is purely evil as the hatable Attila. The make up effects were done by the man who did the effects for Let Sleeping Corpse Lie(1974), and would later provide some of the most gory effects for most of Lucio Fulci's films during the late 1970's/early 1980's(Giannetto De Rossi). 1900(1976) is a perfect movie to view together with The Last Emperor(1987).
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Watching 1900 is like walking through Italy...
yossarian1005 February 2003
Watching 1900 is like walking through Italy, even more so because of the movie's length. However, this is one beautiful film with wonderful performances and great cinematography. The story is both complex and rich with detail and the characters are superbly drawn. 1900 is one of the director's finest works, more symphonic in nature than most films, and deserves a wider audience. Movie buffs will enjoy seeing some rather unique performances by Robert De Niro, Sterling Hayden, and Burt Lancaster.
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Flawed, yet great
zetes19 July 2003
An epic about Italian political history of the first half of the 20th Century, detailing the lives of two men born on the same day. Olmo (played by Gerard Depardieu as an adult) is the bastard child of peasants and is raised to be a socialist. Alfredo (Robert De Niro) is the son of a wealthy family and will someday become lord and master of all the peasants on his land. He's a pleasant man, not cruel like his father, but he won't go out of his way to help those below him in status (including Olmo, who is his closest friend and companion). It's a huge film, and very sloppy. I would guess it would be very sloppy even in its original version (the English language version is an hour shorter at least). My biggest problem with the film is the character of Olmo. As a child (played by Roberto Maccanti), he exhibits daring and independence. As an adult, he seems like a sponge and he kind of drops out of the last third of the picture, it seemed to me. My interest dropped in the character because, first, the character does not seem to follow from childhood to adulthood, and, second, Depardieu gives a dull performance. He's handsome, but in the kind of way that makes you forget that he even exists. Maccanti, as young Olmo, leaves a much bigger impression. My second biggest problem with the film is the treatment of politics. It's no secret where Bertolucci's sympathy lies, with the communists. That's fine by me, and it's good that he has Alfredo not as the villain but as a man who turns his back and continues to live his life as a wealthy man. But there are Fascists in the film, and they are lead by Donald Sutherland. Sutherland is so evil in this film it becomes amusing. He'll do anything to get what he wants, including killing old women, children, and he even headbutts a cat! I have no real problem with showing the Italian Fascists as evil, but this is cartoonishly evil. Sutherland's character's name: Attila. No sh*t! On the other hand, I cannot help but admit that Donald Sutherland has all the most memorable scenes in the film. He may be more or less one dimensional, but I'll never forget his wicked grin, and I'll never forget the splattered blood on his forehead from that cat! Robert De Niro does a lot with his role, which is the most complex in the film, probably. His performance here matches his best work. Alfredo's wife is played by Dominique Sanda. She also gives an exceptional performance, although her character could have been (and might have been, in the full version) better developed. While I have some major problems with the overall substance of the film, there's no doubt there's a genius at work here. Several, actually. Bertolucci's direction is as good as it ever was, and his ambition seems, at least for a while, peerless. He may have had several better films, but this is as much a peak in his direction as Last Tango in Paris or The Conformist. Helping him achieve greatness far beyond what should have resulted are Vittorio Storaro, providing gorgeous, sweeping photography, and Ennio Moricone, ever the trooper with another exceptional musical score. 1900, despite heavy flaws, is indeed a great film.
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Over-reaching epic with memorable vignettes.
jckruize11 September 2002
Gifted filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, along with his collaborators, probably bit off more than they could chew with this massive epic of politics, revolution, love and war, but it's nevertheless a fascinating entertainment for those with the constitution to sit through at least 4 hours (the original long version is 5 hours +!) of imperfect dubbing.

Robert DeNiro and Gerard Depardieu play, respectively, a rich landowner and a peasant, born on the same day of the new century. The story of their friendship takes them from bucolic idyll to the rise of Fascism, bloody war and its aftermath, and back again. Veterans Burt Lancaster and Sterling Hayden play their grandfathers, Dominique Sanda is the woman they both love, and Donald Sutherland inhabits the cartoonish character of Attila, their Fascist nemesis, with trademark fish-eyed malice and depravity.

Gorgeous cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and a gentle, evocative score by Ennio Morricone lend this disjointed story more appeal and dramatic clarity than it might otherwise merit. If the simplistic politics at the end leaves you cold, there will have hopefully been enough vivid and touching scenes along the way to make it worthwhile.
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Despite many memorable scenes, overall far too long and unsatisfying
rchrdshelt28 August 2006
Having heard about this film as having a decent cast and its fairly good rating here on IMDb, I greatly anticipated seeing it despite its colossal running time. I am capable of sitting through long films and have done so with The Green Mile, Once Upon a Time in America, THe Godfather Trilogy and Titanic. However, 5 hours simply seemed too long. Having watched both Acts of the film (running about 2 1/2 hours each) separately to ensure I wouldn't get hasty, I still ended up being disappointed.

I won't get into the plot too deeply purely because that is not what the films problem is. Simplified, it is about fascism and socialism. The biggest problem is the film runs far too long. As mentioned before, I am able to sit and watch a film if it holds my attention and constantly keeps me engaged as those mentioned films did brilliantly. This film doesn't and in my opinion runs at least 2 hours too long. The problem is there are so many pointless scenes and subplots that are often forgotten and add virtually nothing to the story that they really could and should have been cut out. In particular, I found the scenes of the leads at a younger age outstayed their welcome and should have been greatly shortened. Many others throughout follow a similar trend. Another reason the film should have been shortened is that it really is telling a simple story that doesn't require such a huge length of time to tell it. In the final hour I was getting incredibly agitated and felt the story was deliberately dragging on for the sake of it. When the credits finally rolled I felt cheated and very unsatisfied.

Despite these heavy flaws, there are things that make the film slightly worth watching. First of all are the decent performances turned in by most of the cast. DeNiro, Deprardieu, Sutherland and most of the others are fine with Sutherland making his character an incredibly evil and unlikable person. DeNiro was the main actor who attracted me to this film and it seems to be a largely forgotten role of his. Although its not one of his best performances he really is brave and committed here as he features in two pornographic sequences that I can't imagine too many well-known actors are willing to engage in.

The best aspect of the film is the Vittorio Stanto's wonderful Cinematography that makes the most of the Italian countryside and many other wonderful landscapes. Ennio Morricone's score is fairly good also.

Several scenes work well, but unfortunately I was put off by the sheer amount of pointless ones that made the film as long as it was.

I would recommend seeing this film only for the performances and cinematography. I would also recommend finding a much shorter cut because I believe it may be much better if it was between 2 and 3 hours or even less.

Overall I give the film a generous 6/10
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Bernardo, Say Mini-Series
bkoganbing1 September 2008
Novecento is the Gone With The Wind of Italian cinema with enough American stars and one French one to make sure of its international market. It has the epic feel of Gone With The Wind, you can also compare it to any number of films based on Edna Ferber novels. It begins at the beginning of the 20th century in Northern Italy with the birth of two boys on the same day. One is the grandson of the local Padrone, Burt Lancaster who grows up to be Robert DeNiro. The second is the illegitimate grandson of the head man among the workers on Lancaster's estate, Sterling Hayden and the boy grows up to be Gerard Depardieu. This had to be Northern Italy or no one would have believed Gerard's baby blues in Sicily or Calabria.

Despite the difference in class which Americans have trouble comprehending, but as Marlon Brando said in The Young Lions mean a great deal in Europe, the boys grow up to be friends. But it's not only politics that pushes them apart, it's the love of Dominique Sanda. She marries DeNiro, but he can't believe she's not get a yen for Depardieu.

Like Gone With The Wind with the Civil War and Reconstruction, Novecento is set in the period from 1900 to 1945 which were tumultuous years for Italy. Until 1870 Italy was a geographical expression not a country, until the Pope surrendered sovereignty of the Papal States. Like Germany which also united at the same time it now wanted to be recognized as a leading power, Italy even got into the colonial game in Africa. Unlike every other European power it met defeat at Adowa when trying to takeover Ethiopia. That too had a major impact on the Italian psyche, something Bernard Bertolucci curiously enough did not mention.

He concentrated on the age old grievances of peasants against the landlords and the internal problems it was bringing Italy. Abusive landlords and the peasants they controlled, a feudal system that was badly out of date in the industrial age which came to Italy, a bit late, but there in time to throw a lot of peasants off the land and make socialists and communists of them. The gentry, the growing middle class, the church responded in kind with its own counterrevolution, Fascism.

In fact the film's villain is Donald Sutherland as a Fascist overseer that DeNiro hires and who basically takes over running the estate and politics of the locality. This is one of Sutherland's best screen performances, he will chill you to the bone with his cruelty and arrogance. He's essentially a thug who's been given political power.

Running a close second is Laura Betti as DeNiro's sister who marries Sutherland and becomes a true believer in the Fascist cause. At least she sees the peasant discontent and believes Fascism will protect her privileged position.

The original running time of this epic is over five hours and really should have been a mini-series. Maybe in that format we'll see the director's cut some day. It's still a powerful piece of film telling the epic story of a country for almost half a century.
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Two Kids Are Born, Sutherland's a Freak, Woman Pretends To Be Blind, Kid Gets Molested, Horse Manure Is Thrown, Two Old Men Fight In the Road, The End.
CalvinValjean23 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have no problem with lengthy movies, and many of my favorites are over three hours. However, the longer a movie is, the more it risks losing its focus, and that's the problem with 1900. It is not boring, but it goes and on, jumping between characters, ideas, etc, and about halfway through you realize: "This narrative isn't really going anywhere. It's just unfolding in random directions." Yes, I know that the "point" of the story is to show the rise of Fascism and Socialism in Italy, and I've heard people say that you appreciate the movie more if you are Italian. I'm not, though I do love history, and politically am a Socialist, so I should sympathize with this movie, though it provides no real history lesson other than "The only reason for the rise of Fascism was Donald Sutherland's sadism and the only reason for rise of Socialism was that landowners were very mean." Furthermore, the movie is shot in the "spaghetti western" style: an Italian production with English speaking lead roles. This means that most of the supporting characters are dubbed into English, but MAN, is it some blatant dubbing that has a jarring effect! Thanks to DVDs, I can switch over to the Italian audio track, but then I'll have to put up with DeNiro and Lancaster being dubbed. Ugh! I don't get why this style of film-making became popular, because you have to put up with awful dubbing either way.

The movie begins with a lengthy childhood sequence that could have been reduced to 15 minutes without hurting the story much. Bertolucci is interested in establishing settings and characterizations, but doesn't know what to do after creating them. We see a worker protest by cutting off his ear. It's a visually arresting scene, but it goes nowhere. It was nice to see character actor Sterling Hayden play a memorable role, but it's a superfluous character, who does nothing except exist as an obvious parallel to Burt Lancaster's character. Now you might say: "Oh, you're nitpicking. Every movie to some extent has superfluous characters." Yes, but the longer the movie is, the more obvious it becomes that they are superfluous. But my biggest gripe with the childhood sequence is that it focuses on two kids with dubbed voices that are OBVIOUSLY not their own, and that speak out of sync with their mouth movements.

The rest of the first half of the film continues with various sequences and/or character vignettes that are often visually striking or get attention, but are not really cohesive. We get a scene with an epileptic prostitute, and a woman pretending to be blind. There's no real reason for either except that they are eccentric sequences. What exactly is wrong with Ada and why does she engage in what is borderline psychotic behavior when we first meet her? No reason is given.

The second half, however, becomes dominated by the two villains, and they are two of the HAMMIEST villains I've ever seen in a movie. It isn't enough that Sutherland's character is a Fascist; he must also be a sadistic, demented, constantly sneering pedophile who is so obviously mentally unbalanced that he would never get a job in real life. His lover (though these characters are portrayed so cartoon-ishly evil that it's tough to imagine them being capable of love) is Regina, who constantly cackles like a witch. And in case it's still not clear that she's evil, she is sexually deviant as well, and harbors feelings for her cousin, who in one scene appears to be pleasuring her in the woods (why he is participating in this scene is not really explored). These two characters go from scene to scene, killing a kid here, killing an old lady there, no real point, just to show that Fascism is bad. There is a fun scene where Attila is pelted with manure, though it goes on too long (and thank you, Bertolucci, for that random closeup of a horse's rectum! I sure needed to see that). At the movie's climax, these two are chased in a witch hunt. Bertolucci goes out of his way to humiliate and degrade his villains as much as he can, literally dragging them through the mud, and while this scene is somewhat satisfying, its impact is diminished by how long it goes on, just like countless previous scenes in 1900.

Well, this review is getting long (but what can you expect from a movie that tries to cover too much?) so I will sum it up: it would be a much better movie if it focused more on DeNiro and Depardieu's characters and their friendship, and lost a lot of the excess baggage. Sometimes you'll get obvious plot devices (a drifter randomly showing up to confess to a crime he didn't do, just so that Depardieu can get off the hook), at times there is no plot, and most of the time you'll find yourself thinking: "This scene would be so much more effective if it wasn't bogged down by so much excess."

Here is a YouTube video I made making fun of the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I4BxQ5ydMM
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salomejanelidze23 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film years ago, as I wondered into the cinema, excited by seeing the name of Bernando Bertolucci. And I still suffer from memories. There are a few films out there, that have had such an impact on me. It scarred me for life. Seriously. The visions of pigs slaughter, child rape, one of the most brutal murder scenes a human mind can ever imagine and the creepiest smile of Donald Sutherland still haunt me. Besides the very disturbing scenes, the film is absolutely marvellous, depicting emergence and spreading of fascism in Italy. It is a masterpiece indeed, but scary, scary masterpiece. Definitely not suitable for children under 18. I learned the hard way.
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"I caught the frogs - you ate them!"
rhinocerosfive-15 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A four-season saga of impotent gentry, lusty communists, perverse fascists, and dead animals, at 315 minutes NOVECENTO is not exactly bloated, but not quite interesting enough to justify its immense running time. There is simply not enough event to fill five hours. It's Bertolucci's HEAVEN'S GATE: the self-indulgent monster a director gets away with once in his career, just after a stunning success like Cimino's DEER HUNTER, or in this case LAST TANGO. But every third scene is just beautiful - intensely acted, lusciously filmed, passionately directed.

What's interesting is that this simplified vision of Italian history, as portrayed in 50 years of exploitation, dissipation and failed revolution on a country estate, doesn't look or feel particularly Italian. This isn't because it's populated by French and American leads - Sterling Hayden, for instance, is utterly convincing as a Bolognese peasant. And it's not the direction per se, as there are flashes of neorealism and occasional moments of genuine Roman hysteria here, including most of the last hour. But its universal themes, methodical pace and visual style make this movie less an Italian drama than a generically European soap opera. As paean to the land it is Dutch, lit like a Vermeer and composed like a Rembrandt; as political polemic it's Russian, with Gerard Depardieu declaiming Marxism into the camera as if he's standing in front of the Winter Palace; as romance it's French, if anything, though Flaubert's disillusioned housewives were never this bland.

There are many singularities about NOVECENTO. It's certainly the only picture to feature the penises of not merely Depardieu and Robert De Niro but Sterling Hayden; it's probably the last movie to represent cocaine as a harmless diversion; I hope it's the sole film to feature a horse anus massaged until it deposits a load into someone's hands. Most impressively, to my knowledge it's the single movie to capture the whole breadth of Donald Sutherland's talent. He is charming, funny, drunken, sadistic, swaggering, boorish, pathetic, scary, and obsequious. It is a rare film role, and an even rarer supporting turn, that allows an actor so much room; it is an uncommon actor indeed who can fill it.

The same cannot be said of Depardieu's character, who unfortunately has only one face to make in the whole thing, nor De Niro's work, which is as unconvincing here as he was electrifying the same year in TAXI DRIVER. This performance ranks with his most uninspired late 90s shtick. Dominique Sanda, Laura Betti and Alida Valli are outrageously good in their limited roles, as are Hayden, Lancaster and a variety of Italian nationals. But the script wholly degenerates as the film wears on, taking an unhappy turn from pastoral eloquence to symbolist rhetoric. By the end nobody's got anything worth doing except Sutherland, and then he's dead and we've got twenty more minutes of tired verite speechifying.

But it looks absolutely great all the way through. Though his obvious influences are so various and often so pretty, Vittorio Storaro's most striking images here are of things dead and dying: a hat crowned with gigged, squirming frogs; shot ducks twisting and drowning in a canal; a fleeing fascist impaled by farm implements. Not to mention the butchered hogs and raped women and children.
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huge disappointment
amansilya27 April 2006
Q: What happens when five true geniuses - a director, a composer and three actors - get together to make a movie that would really change the world? A: A disaster.

Bertolucci was never able to write good dialogs, or to tell a coherent story, or to create deep convincing characters. He always tried to palliate that with a rather pathetic mix of realistic sex and unrealistic politics. He never had any sense of rhythm, but we always forgave him that because his lengthy shots are so beautiful, and his casting so impressive. But in this film, the usual flaws are exacerbated to such an extent that it is practically unwatchable.

The story that lasts for those five bloody hours is really very simple. It's about a Good Commie Guy (Depardieu), a Bad Fasist Guy (Sutherland) and a Weak Rich Guy (de Niro). By the way, de Niro's character is in every detail a clone of the Last Emperor from another Bertolucci film: same spoiled childhood, same loneliness, same conformism, same bohemian farniente, same relationship with wife, same end as a prisoner of the people. I can think of only one other film in which so much efforts of such great actors were wasted in such a useless way, and that is "The Thin Red Line".
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"Communism is a disease. It can destroy the world!"
Anonymous_Maxine26 February 2008
Powerful words for me to hear, having bought and watched this movie here in China...

It is unusually interesting to read the reviews of professional film critics about Bernardo Bertolucci's wildly ambitious "1900," which in my opinion stumbles in no small part because it resembles too much some of Bertolucci's other films, notably of the bizarre European sex drama variety. I have a secret theory that any legitimate film that portrays graphic sexual acts has sort of a glass ceiling, a level of quality that it can't surpass, no matter how spectacular the rest of the film is. That, like the graphic pig-slaughtering scene, is simply bad taste.

1900 is no exception, and the saddest thing is that the rest of the film is not even very good, it's just really long. In fact, at just over five hours, it's one of the longest films I've ever seen, second only to Stephen King's 6-hour The Stand, which was made for TV anyway. In all of the professional reviews I've read, I've noticed some unusually interesting examinations of what went wrong with Bertolucci's much anticipated epic film, and yet not one of them seems to have the nerve to come out and say what is so obviously the problem.

And unfortunately, the horrendously bad taste doesn't end at the literally pornographic nudity. I can't think of any legitimate reason why we should have to watch a pig being butchered and then sliced in half, or (and this one truly blew my mind) see a man massage a horse's anus with his bare hands and then gleefully catch the steaming excrement in his hands. And to make matters worse, Bertolucci, in one of the short documentaries on the DVD re-release of the film, made the shocking claim that "I thought it was very innocent at the time." It could very easily be said that he had no grip on reality when he made the film. Much of it is truly sickening.

And the characterization is no different. Donald Sutherland is one of my favorite actors, and Bertolucci managed to coax a ridiculously cartoonish and offensive performance out of him. He is, of course, a Fascist blackshirt (a bad guy), and we are most certainly not allowed to forget that. He has frightening, devilishly toothy grin, a cold, killers stare, and he wears a skull and crossbones on his shirt. He also, by the way, wantonly kills kittens and children. I only wish I could say that I was just being dramatic when I say that...

The film tells the story of an era, not of its main characters, but it tells that story through the lives of the characters. DeNiro plays Alfredo Berlighieri, the son of a wealthy landowner, and best friend of Olmo Dalco (Gerard Depardieu), a the son of a peasant who works for Alfredo's father. The scenes of their childhood are alternately fascinating and revolting, as we learn of their friendship despite their different backgrounds and yet are forced to sit through scenes of them as 12 or 13 year old boys examining and comparing their penises. There is no need for something like this in any film in any country at any time. Ever. From here on, respectable members of the audience may find it difficult to forgive this perverse nonsense and objectively enjoy the rest of the film.

I also love the weakness of the characterization in the film. There is a scene early in the film where Olmo's father gives him a rousing speech about going off to join the military and maybe even learn to obey and take a wife but never forget that he comes from peasants, and just to make sure everyone in the audience has figured out that this is not a family of nobility, Olmo walks his dirty bare feet across a lengthy and crowded dinner table as his father gives him the speech. No one seems to mind.

From a technical standpoint the film is a total, belligerent disaster. Everything is dubbed over, so no one's voice matches their facial movements, which are in turn exaggerated by the actors so they can try to more easily match up the dialogue later. It rarely ever works, and so their voices and the ambient sound is totally off from beginning to end. The photography, on the other hand, is brilliant, but as Ebert suggested, it comes across almost like an apology for the narrative mess of the rest of the film.

Most interesting is that Bertolucci managed to make such an incompetent film with such stupendously talented actors as Gerard Depardieu, Robert DeNiro, and Donald Sutherland. Sutherland's character is so cartoonish that it's nearly impossible to take anything about his performance seriously, but DeNiro and Depardieu are both outstanding in their roles, which are mirror images of each other in more ways than one. Unfortunately, as becomes completely obvious in the film's closing scene, Bertolucci just had no idea what to do with them.

1900 is not a complete failure, but it is as close as I've ever seen a film this big come to being one. It is not a successful or even a respectable effort, but it is definitely an ARDUOUS effort, kind of like sitting through the whole movie...
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girlborn19793 September 2006
I would like to warn non-italians: do not take this movie too seriously.

The cast is impressive and the theme is ambitious: however, the movie contains major historical imprecisions over the origins and rise of Fascism. The pre-fascist social struggle and the daily life and mentality of farmers are represented in a most unrealistic and historically imprecise way as well. The main interest of the director seem to be grandiosity and spectacularization, at the expenses of authenticity.

In conclusion, in my opinion, 1900 isn't Italy - it is Hollywood! By 1976, a large part of Italian cinema had already lost its intellectual autonomy from Hollywood, autonomy that was instead still retained in the 60s - see the various masterpieces interpreted by Alberto Sordi, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale.
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Occasionally enchanting, unremittingly ambitious, frequently perplexing
m-sendey22 June 2013
Two friends – Alfredo Berlinghieri (Robert De Niro) and Olmo Dalcò (Gérard Depardieu) – come from two different social classes. The former is an aristocrat who is relatively good to his subordinates, while the latter is a bastard peasant's son believing in communism. Their social stances entail clashes between them in the first half of the 20th century during which numerous disturbances occur…

This glossy, contentious epic directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and stunningly shot by the great Vittorio Storaro is occasionally enchanting, unremittingly ambitious, frequently perplexing as well as overflowed with concepts and self-indulgent monologues. Viewing this imposing film is like peering at a dilapidated ancient temple – the further a visitor steps in, the more constructional damages he beholds. As usual in case of Bertolucci's efforts, the ensemble is displayed in a non-linear manner, beginning on the day of the liberation of Italy in 1945 and successively recurring to the moment of two protagonists' birth – they are born on the same day. This time the composition is not to blame forasmuch the entire action unfolds in a relatively straight-forward way, evading any unnecessary intervals and being one huge flashback itself. Upon being regaled with an enviable artistic freedom, Mr Bertolucci executes his tale about political maelstrom in fascist Italy with indubitable meticulousness and surgical precision. The first act is particularly ravishing and owing to the length of the movie, Bertolucci is able to render characters sufficiently profound and their intentions and needs plausible. There is a fine role of Alfredo Berlinghieri the Elder (an uncle of the protagonist played by De Niro) acted by Burt Lancaster which conveys psychological depth to the motion picture and resembles Prince Don Fabrizio Salina from Il Gattopardo (1963) by Luchino Visconti, likewise performed by Lancaster. Alfredo Berlinghieri The Elder cannot disclose any consolation in his old age and feels desolated by his family which is generally preoccupied with their inheritance. But for this poignant character, it would have appeared a mere communist propaganda. In the second half, the realistic tone is upended by a virtually caricatural couple of fascists played by Donald Sutherland and Laura Betti. Their relationship which is prefaced by an excessively pompous monologue proclaimed by Sutherland seems unrealistic and the nature of their first sexual experience involves a young boy who supposedly is raped by them (nothing is exposed explicitly). The entire sequence transpires in one of the rooms of the Berlinghieri's mansion as though it was a perfect place to perform forbidden acts such as paedophilia. It's likewise far-fetched that the publicly-recognised fascist dares to debauch a small boy as if he wasn't apprehensive of possible consequences. The entire event which is supposed to be disturbing is very contrived, forced and improbable – the entire situation's purpose is concealed by a backdrop of incomprehensibility. Possibly it is intended to be a reference to Salò (1975) by Bertolucci's mentor – Pier Paolo Pasolini. If it is so then this is an extremely awkward connection.

Still, insipid instants are few and far between, despite being rather leisurely paced. Mise en scène is quite strong, despite some foibles regarding flick's climax. The auxiliary cinematography by Vittorio Storaro is delightfully flamboyant as well as one of the biggest advantages of Novecento, even though it is not one of Storaro's finest efforts. Storaro succeeds in dousing every scene in an adequate portion and colour of the lighting, imbuing the celluloid with disparate hues, ranging from cold (grey and blue) to warm ones (yellow and red) to the extension that at one point, flowing water in a river reminiscent of orange juice. The cast is simply remarkable and Mr Bertolucci must have been ecstatic about possessing such actors as Burt Lancaster, Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Romolo Valli, Donald Sutherland, Stefania Sandrelli and Laura Betti at his disposal.

Novecento undoubtedly implicates a marvellous appearance and impressive décor, nevertheless in the middle, it embarks on being at a loss for a specific direction and Mr Bertolucci ultimately steers the material onto cinematic shallows. The main topic of mutual relationship between Alfredo and Olmo nearly becomes a background to the events occurring on the screen and after some time, one is likely to forget what it was all about. Mr Bertolucci unabashedly relishes with film's grandiloquence and themes, not making allowances for the possibility that it is all too greasy and there is too much of this opulence and monumentality. Personally, I think it was occasionally engaging, even delightful, but towards the denouement it gets too pulpy, too obviously communistic as well as virtually devoid of main heroes. It almost feels as if one was teleported to a gathering of left-wing revolutionaries wielding Kalashnikovs and willing to assassinate you in any minute inasmuch you are not holding a red flag, not to mention the confounded resolution which leaves its viewer confused.
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A disastrous mishmash
tploomis8 July 2012
This is a ham-handed propaganda film extolling the virtues of the agrarian peasant and excoriating the wicked landowners of Italy in the early 1900's. But even as political screed it doesn't work. Early in the movie a peasant boy who has hunted frogs and sold them for a coin is ordered by his father to turn over his coin, explaining that he should never forget what he has is there for the rest of the suffering peasants on the farm. Given that the boy has just been hijacked by his father, it makes one wonder why he would ever do anything enterprising again ... his father would just take it away, and justify it with a Communist cliché to boot. If the boy's future feelings about his father were true to his experience in the movie, he would of course hate his father. But this is not the case, and the character becomes a good little socialist. Motives of other characters are equally confusing. Why does anything happen in this film? It jumps from unrelated scene to unrelated scene, dramatic music alerting us that what is happening is very important. Characters engage in histrionic acting out (somebody cuts off his own ear to indicate strong feelings) for reasons never explained. Donald Sutherlund brutalizes and kills a cat to indicate some political point. Over the top Italian emoting is mixed with sloganeering -- "exploited workers of the world must unite against their oppressors," etc., etc.. Actors speak with Italian accents at times, but at other times the effort just seems too much, and the accent devolves to British or American.

The early parts of the movie, which I focus on because I could not watch the whole thing, are filmed in lush gold and green colors. Peasants cut hay with their scythes in the fields, golden sunshine everywhere. It seems impossible to be miserable in such an environment... this is not the cold, bleak suffering of Russian peasants. Yet unhappy they are, presumably in some kind of comradely solidarity with their Soviet counterparts. Motives seem to be tied to identification with political cause, not individual experience. At other times people just act silly, dancing grotesquely or rolling around in homo-erotic horse play.

Characters seem to take themselves very seriously; there is plenty of sobbing, plenty of bitter speeches. But I could not identify with any of it. The movie failed to engage me enough to care in any way about any character. Did the director somehow think that putting a bunch of characters with histrionic personality disorders together in a room would lead to profundity? It's ludicrous.

Save yourself from five hours of wasted time. Don't see this movie.
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JasparLamarCrabb31 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
To call it merely monumental would be an understatement. Bernardo Bertolucci's massive film is a masterpiece of movie-making. Richer even than his previous politically charged THE CONFORMIST. 1900 centers on the parallel lives of the wealthy bourgeois Alfredo (Robert DeNiro) and the peasant Olmo (Gerard Depardieu). They're the best of enemies growing up during the early part of the twentieth century. They share their dreams, their fears and even their women. Alfredo grows into his lifestyle quite nicely while Olmo becomes a revolutionary fighting the Fascists (embodied by cruel farm foreman Donald Sutherland as the aptly named Attila). It's brutal, horrifying, tragic and extremely well made with breathtaking cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and a jarring, sometimes perverse score by Ennio Morricone. There are scenes in this film that are very unsettling. DeNiro is excellent, capturing the passive, disengaged wealthy class that allowed Mussolini and his blackshirts to run amok. Better still is Depardieu, offering up the most passionate rebel on screen since Spartacus!

The large supporting cast include Dominque Sanda, Stefania Casini, Alida Valli and, as Olmo's fire breathing grandfather, Sterling Hayden. Burt Lancaster plays the tragic (very tragic) patriarch of Alfredo's wealthy family. His cameo is truly memorable. Be wary of cut versions of the film...there are many out there. The 315 minute version is surely one of the best films to ever come out of Italy.
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Backfiring propaganda
SnorriGodhi2 July 2006
This movie is far more effective as fascist propaganda than Loni Riefenstahl could ever hope to be. It works this way: you see Attila (the main fascist character) behave as a psychopathic monster without any redeeming features; you remember that the Italian fascists murdered only about one dissident per year (and no Jews) while Mussolini was in power, which adds up to about the same number of people that Attila alone murders in the movie; and you decide that the Italian fascists were not as bad as they are portrayed. It is only a short step to concluding that the fascists were not as bad as they might have been, which is to say they were not so bad after all. The fact is that the great crimes of the Italian fascists, mostly committed abroad, are completely ignored in this movie. Instead, Attila kills Italians. Perhaps Bertolucci is ignorant of the fact that fascists are nationalists?

Since Attila and his lover exist for propaganda purposes, it goes without saying that they come out of central casting. In fact, they make Red Sonja look like it was scripted by Jane Austen. The other characters are developed a bit better, say about as well as in Red Sonja. Another appropriate comparison is to Tim Burton's Batman (and Batman Returns): in 1900, as in Batman, the crowds accept uncritically whatever the "bad guys" want them to believe - with the exception of the working classes, of course, which are unfailingly portrayed in a positive light.

If it were possible, I would give this movie a negative rating, meaning that it is so pointless, and unpleasant to watch, that to see it again I would need to be paid over and above the price of my time. I am glad that I did not get a chance to see this movie before The Last Emperor: if I did, Bertolucci would be on my blacklist.
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This "historical" film never gets to the point
Jacqueline-810 August 2000
Bernardo Bertolucci's attempt at making a historical film fails in so many different ways it seems deliberate. The movie contains a war sequence which could have occurred whenever and wherever. This lack of clarity goes on throughout the film---worse yet, the film is somewhere around five hours long! Renting it, I couldn't finish either tape. Bernardo Bertolucci could have turned this into an actual non-fictional work, even with fictional characters, to describe whatever he's trying to say, but no.
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A Masterpiece
kaljic20 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It is gratifying to see that this film is finally receiving the recognition it deserves. The United States market never understood this film. First put off on the length distributors cut and slashed the film to a length they thought movie-goers would tolerate and produced an inferior product that made no sense. The movie-goers themselves were not of a mind-set to appreciate the themes and content of the film. It was released during the height of the disco period when the movie-going public wanted to see Saturday Night Fever and not a politically charged film. There would have been a different result if the film had been released ten years earlier, but even that possibility is doubtful. The film is unabashedly leftist and proudly exposes the virtues of Marxism, so much so it has been called the Marxist Gone With the Wind. Finally, the historical issues portrayed in the film, while familiar to European watchers, are totally unknown to American movie-goers, who never had much interest in history anyway. Still, with all of these drawbacks, its was on its release and remains widely popular in just about every other country in the world and a film of incredible beauty.

I watched the 2-DVD release years after first viewing this movie in Europe when it was first released. Little did I know I was watching the European uncut, five hour plus, version, which was not available in the United States. The 2-dvd version loses little of the effect and Bertolucci does not hide his political sympathies. Some may believe that the political message detracts from the film. Far from it. Its message is more relevant today than when it was first released. Burt Lancaster and Robert de Niro took reduced fees for acting in the movie, they believed in the vision so much. De Niro made this movie immediately following Godfather II and could have demanded a higher fee, but didn't.

Other reviews have taken exception to the candid depictions to the coming of age scenes, and the scenes depicting the killing of animals. While this may offend PETA sensibilities, and as difficult it is to see the slaughtering of the pig --- or any animal --- there was a point to this part of the movie. One of the purposes of this movie, Bertolucci says in the bonus features, is to remind modern day Italians where they came from. He states that the Italian viewer watching this film in the 70's was only one or two generations away from the lifestyle reflected in the movie. It is faithfully recording everyday life of Italian peasantry, a practice which lives on today in villages in Southern Europe. Nothing was wasted because they could not afford to waste anything.

Folks, this is not post-modern urban life in America. American viewers in the early stages of the 21st Century may be farther removed from the practice of slaughtering livestock and scrounging for a meager existence, but as the day laborers in 1990 lived, but I can assure you that there was a day when that was precisely how Americans lived. It is how people lived their lives, until very recently, for hundreds and hundreds of years.

American viewers should be more disturbed on seeing how fascism took hold in pre-WWII Italy. It is a reminder how it can happen, here or anywhere, but, ... "It Can't Happen Here" ....

As difficult as these scenes are to watch, Bertolucci's 1900 is actually a rather accurate reflection of political trends in Southern Europe in general, and Pre- and Mid-WWII Italy and Greece in particular, and an accurate depiction of post WWI Italy.A particularly accurate account is the scene late in the movie, when, after the war and after the trial of Berlingheri, partisans come moving in, notifying the mob that a new government was installed, and requested everyone turn in their firearms, which they did. Roughly the same post-WWII events occurred in Greece.

Whatever one may be the political predispositions of anyone viewing 1900, Bertolucci has created a film of great and exquisite beauty, with a powerful message as relevant today as when it was released. Every frame is suitable for framing, and matches the magnificent the oil painting which opens the film.
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overblown tripe
derzu_uzala6 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As a memorabilia of what leftist propaganda (wich I've got nothing against per se) was in the 1970s, "1900" is vaguely interesting. As a movie, it sucks big time. The issue is not that it's long -I love Visconti or Tarkowski- it's that it's long AND silly AND pretentious. And incidentally a huge waste of talents, given the stellar cast. My 2 main problems with 1900 were: 1) the story (or rather its political bias). During 5 hours you are presented to a piece of political "perspective" which would be more to the point in an old Walt Disney cartoon: Fascists are a minority of bad, ugly, pervert, and eyes-rolling murderers (how they came to power in Italy appears to be mystery, by the way). Landowners are (obviously) decadent, lazy, with a hint of sexual impotence. Communists are hard-working, beautiful, saint-like beings - their political aim appear to peacefully sing "the International" while toiling in the fields. Apparently, Mr Bertolucci learned his XXth Century history in "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly". 2) the soundtrack is awful. Apparently all actors are post-synced, so that de Niro's voice can be heard in the English version (but it doesn't look like he was actually saying his lines while the film was shot), Depardieu in the french version etc... Besides the music of Morricone -I'm sorry to have to disagree with some of my fellow IMDb reviewers- is quite bad.

After a couple of hours (and despite the temptation to call it a day) I watched the rest of the movie hesitating between consternation and plain hilarity. In the end I just chose the latter.
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One of the more disastrous movies I've seen
adbuttons8 November 2001
Now first off, I would like to say that I saw the 250 minute version of this movie, so I am willing to accept that I might have missed some great moments in the movie that were taken out. However, I think I saw what was truly essential to understanding the movie. This was, without a doubt, one of the major catastrophes of modern cinema, a film which had so much promise, but ended up ridiculous.

One of the main problems, noticeable in the version I saw was the dubbing. Now I realize that this was not necessarily Bertolucci's fault, but what was his fault was having an international cast to begin with. It would make for awkward moments and never really let all the actors in their own voices shine. Whether mostly dubbed or mostly subtitled, some actors performances would be hurt.

Saying that, the acting in the movie ranged from mostly mediocre to truly bizarre. Out of the main actors, the only two people who don't embarrass themselves too much are Burt Lancaster and Sterling Hayden. Not that the actors are the huge problem. What is mostly the curse is the horrible, horrible characterizations due to the horrendous script. The first half of the movie is merely very flawed in this manner, but the second half really just shows how badly the movie falls apart in this area. I was laughing out loud hysterically at the dialogue and actions of the characters that were part of the performances. I mean, were any of these people in the movie at all likeable? Were Attila (Sutherland's character) and Regina even human beings?

Still, the main blame goes with Bertolucci himself. He did an adequate job directing, but the political argument he tried to make was weak to begin with, and lost amid the fact that the movie couldn't be taken seriously (something that extends even to the final scenes). He also made the story too broad. It seems to want to focus on the relationship between Alfredo (DeNiro) and Ulmo (Depardieu) but we never really get a sense of their relationship. Bertolucci just says they are friends so we have to accept that its the case, but I don't based on the evidence of the movie. Again, this may have to do with the cut version, but I am still skeptical that this is is the case. I also never felt compassion for any of the peasants, and making the fascists and wealthy into evil incarnate or dumb baffoons ruined by money and power was very convenient for Bertolucci. He desperately didn't want the audience to have any compassion for them, a truly dishonest way to proceed.

I hope that this summary helps. I realize I am in the minority here, but I refuse to call this a good film. It is watchable and moves well, but not for the reasons that Bertolucci intended. If he wanted an over-the-top drama/horror/comedy (as Russ Meyer did with "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls") I would give the movie some props. But as it seems a serious attempt to garner support for the left, I can't think highly of it. "1900" simply is just one of the great disasters of film history, on par with "Caligula," "Dune," and "Ishtar."
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