La Terra Trema - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





Italy, 1947


Director: Luchino Visconti

Production: Universalia; black and white, 35mm; running time: about 160 minutes. Released 1947. Filmed 1947 in Aci Trezza, a small fishing village in Sicily.


Producer: Salvo d'Angelo; screenplay: Luchino Visconti, from the 19th century novel I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga; assistant directors: Francesco Rosi and Franco Zeffirelli; photography: G. R. Aldo; editor: Mario Serandrei; sound: Vittorio Trentino; music: Willi Ferrero with Luchino Visconti.

La Terra Trema
La Terra Trema

Cast: The cast is composed of the people of Aci Trezza in Sicily.

Publications


Script:

Visconti, Luchino, La terra trema , in Two Screenplays , New York, 1970; as La terra trema , Bologna, 1977.

Books:

Gromo, Mario, Cinema Italiano , Milan, 1954.

Pellezzari, Lorenzo, Luchino Visconti , Milan, 1960.

Baldelli, Pio, I film di Luchino Visconti , Manduria, 1965.

Guillaume, Yves, Visconti , Paris, 1966.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, Luchino Visconti , New York, 1968; 2nd edition, 1973.

Leprohon, Pierre, The Italian Cinema , New York, 1972.

Armes, Roy, Patterns of Realism , New York, 1972.

Ferrera, Adelio, editor, Visconti: Il cinema , Milan, 1977.

Tornabuoni, Lietta, editor, Album Visconti , Milan, 1978.

Stirling, Monica, A Screen of Time , New York, 1979.

Visconti, Luchino, Il meo teatro (2 volumes), Bologna, 1979.

Rondolini, Gianni, Luchino Visconti , Turin, 1981.

Servadio, Gaia, Luchino Visconti: A Biography , London, 1981.

Bencivenni, Alessandro, Luchino Visconti , Florence, 1982.

Tonetti, Claretta, Luchino Visconti , Boston, 1983.

Ishaghpour, Youssef, Luchino Visconti: Le Sens et l'image , Paris, 1984.

Sanzio, Alain, and Paul-Louis Thirard, Luchino Visconti: Cinéaste , Paris, 1984.

De Guisti, Luciano, I film di Luchino Visconti , Rome, 1985.

Mancini, Elaine, Luchino Visconti: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1986.

Villien, Bruno, Visconti , Paris, 1986.

Schifano, Laurence, Luchino Visconti: Les Feux de la passion , Paris, 1987.

Micciché, Lino, Visconti e il neorealismo: Ossessione, La terra trema, Bellissima , Venice, 1990.

Renzi, Renzo, Visconti segreto , Rome, 1994.

Micciché, Lino, Luchino Visconti: un profilo critico , Venice, 1996.

Bacon, Henry, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay , Cambridge, 1998.


Articles:

Renzi, Renzo, "Mitologia e contemplasione in Visconti, Ford, e Eisenstein," in Bianco e Nero (Rome), February 1949.

Bianco e Nero (Rome), March 1951.

Ecran Français (Paris), January 1952.

Speri, Pietro, "Verismo litterario e neorealismo," in Cinema (Rome), 15 March 1954.

Castello, G. C., "Luchino Visconti," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1956.

Sarris, Andrew, in Village Voice (New York), 14 October 1956.

Dyer, Peter, "The Vision of Visconti," in Film (London), March-April 1957.

Domarchi, Jean, and Doniol Valcroze, interview with Visconti, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer-Autumn 1959.

Poggin, G., in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1960.

Rhode, Eric, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1960–61.

Aristarco, Guido, "The Earth Still Trembles," in Films and Filming (London), January 1961.

"Visconti Issue" of Premier Plan (Paris), May 1961.

"Visconti Issue" of Etudes Cinématographique (Paris), nos. 26–27, 1963.

Cinéma (Paris), September-October 1963.

Elsaesser, Thomas, in Brighton Film Review , February 1970.

"Visconti Issue" of Cinema (Rome), April 1970.

Bazin, André, in What is Cinema? 2 , edited by Hugh Gray, Berkeley, 1971.

Korte, Walter, in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Fall 1971.

New York Times , 7 January 1979.

Rosi, Francesco, "En travaillant avec Visconti: Sur le tournage de La terra trema ," in Positif (Paris), February 1979.

Lyons, D., "Visconti's Magnificent Obsessions," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1979.

Prudente, R., "I proverbi di Verga nelle variazioni di Visconti," in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), October 1980.

"Le Néo-Réalisme Issue" of Cahiers Lumières (Besançon), November 1980.

Decaux, Emmanuel, in Cinématographe (Paris), May 1981.

Aristarco, Guido, "La vera storia di Visconti a Venezia," in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), vol. 43, no. 347, January-February 1994.

Rosi, Francesco, "Entre Le kid et La terre tremble, " in Positif (Paris), no. 400, June 1994.

Nagel, Josef, "Der Rhytmus der Pferde," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), vol. 49, no. 7, 26 March 1996.

Lopate, Phillip, "A Master Who Confounded the Categorizers: Luchino Visconti Was an Aristocrat Whose Politics Were Progressive, a Neo-Realist Who Delighted in Melodrama and Decadence," in The New York Times , 16 November 1997.


* * *


1948, the year of La terra trema , is also the year of the crucial postwar Italian elections. As neo-realism often has it, political history and film history coincide. Italians went to the polls for the vote that was to determine the course of Italian political life for many decades: the election of a Christian Democrat legislative majority. La terra trema owes its genesis in part to that coincidence.

In 1947 the director Luchino Visconti went to Sicily with two young and promising assistant directors—Francesco Rosi and Franco Zeffirelli—and two reported intentions: to record in a short documentary the historic moment of political and social renewal that was expected to result from the collective action of the workers and peasants and to realize the old ambition of adapting Verga (here specifically I Malavoglia ) to the screen. Visconti stayed for seven months. During that time the original projects underwent radical transformation: the film that finally resulted reflects an amalgam of the stylistic and ideological directions of the two. Confronted by the structures and spirit of Aci Trezza (the village on the eastern coast of Sicily that had served as setting for Verga's novel), Visconti fashioned a film honest to the reality he found rather than to the dictates of current political theory interpreted by Northern political logic. The conditions for revolution were not present; the Sicilian proletariat was in no sense prepared to rise against exploitation and oppression. Whatever few attempts there might be were doomed to failure. Nor could a version faithful to Verga bear witness to the struggle of contemporary fishermen. A powerful, essentially hostile universe, against which man is locked in the eternal drama of hopeless battle, would no longer satisfy the exigencies of the new verismo . The enemy needed to be identified unmistakably as capitalism—its closed system, its greed.

The developing narrative intention demanded a form consonant with its ambition. The epic portrait of the fishermen of the Sicilian village would, it was projected, be followed by two other films of equal scope to complete a trilogy on the "southern question"—the first on the struggles of Sicilian mine workers, the second on that of peasants. But finances determined that only "the episode of the sea," the story of the Valastros, be told.

Young 'Ntoni, enraged by the crooked dealings of the fish wholesalers, exhilarated by a first expression of revolt, in love and eager to marry, realizes that as long as he, his grandfather and brothers fish from a boat that belongs to others, they will remain in the relative poverty they have always known, cheated of the just rewards of their labor. Counter to the ways of generations of his family and neighbors, 'Ntoni mortgages the family home in order to buy a boat. After an initial moment of promise, the family fortunes begin to decline. The boat is lost in a storm, and then, because of the hostility of the wholesalers and boat owners, the family falls into debt and then abject poverty. The bank appropriates the house, the grandfather dies, one brother flees with a shadowy stranger, a sister is disgraced, another loses her chance of happiness. In the end, 'Ntoni and his younger brothers return to the sea as hired hands on another's boat. 'Ntoni realizes that individual action can only lead to failure, that in collective action alone is there any hope for success.

Like the story, the actors of La terra trema were found in the place of the action. The Valastros, their friends and neighbors, are played by fishermen, bricklayers, wives and daughters of Aci Trezza. The language they speak is the dialect of their village, hardly more comprehensible to the speaker of standard Italian than to any other foreigner. A narrator advances the plot through voiceover comments, and above all through translations from the dialect of Aci Trezza into the national tongue of that part of Italy the Sicilian calls "the continent."

In the approximately 160 minutes of La terra trema , the camera remains confined to Aci Trezza, to the horizon accessible to it from the fixed position of the church square. The world of the camera is enclosed towards the sea by the two rocks that form a gate for the harbor, and towards land by the fields beyond the cluster of houses that constitute the village. This is the world of the inhabitants of Aci Trezza. Beyond it lie danger and death. Within the space, Aldo, Visconti's cinematographer (for whom La terra trema represented a remarkable first experience with moving pictures), integrated characters, decor and landscape into a startling cogent whole. Through a mise-en-scène which, as Bazin points out, for the first time demonstrated the possibilities of depth of field to exterior as well as interior locations, Aldo achieved that which Visconti had perceived as necessary to an understanding of the Valastros: their integrity with the village and the sea, their dependency on both.

—Mirella Jona Affron



Also read article about La Terra Trema from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA