Saturday, May 5, 2012

“Blessed Are the Young Who See What Isn’t There”: On the Final Moments of 1900




Bernardo Bertolucci’s mesmerizing, towering 1900 is hitting Blu-Ray thanks to Olive Films, and I haven’t been this excited about a release in quite some time. When I saw it again at MoMA last year, I was quite shaken for some days afterwards. There’s something about 1900 that puts every other movie to shame – in its size, scope, and sweep, obviously, but also in the fact that you can’t just shrug your shoulders at it. It provokes an emotionally violent response, regardless of whether you love it or hate it. You might even do both. At 317 minutes, there’s a lot of movie in there.

For its first four-and-a-half hours or so, 1900 is essentially a big, bold melodrama about Italian history, with outsize emotions and a filmmaking style that we might call “operatic,” had the term not been overused. Then, in its last 30-40 minutes, Bertolucci’s film basically (and I think consciously) goes off the rails in its depiction of the events of April 25, 1945, “il giorno della liberazione.” The film’s much-abused peasants, emboldened by the downfall of Fascism, dig up a giant patchwork red flag (one they’ve sewn together and hidden over these many years, and thus a literal symbol of their buried class struggle) and pull out their accordions. Then, they put the padrone, aka the local landowner, aka Alfredo Berlinghieri, aka Robert De Niro, on trial -- not just for his crimes but also the crimes of his forefathers and, essentially, his entire class. They dance around and embrace while Alfredo is humiliated, at one point even beaten down, by peasants who look to their fellow revolutionary, Alfredo’s lifelong friend Olmo Dalco (Gerard Depardieu), who may or may not have come back from the dead, for leadership.

Gerard Depardieu explains the revolution to you.
Alfredo and Olmo are the protagonists of the film, twin opposites who in their own ways represent the dueling factions of Bertolucci’s own psyche – the bourgeois sensualist in love with life “before the revolution” and the socialist who seeks a more just world. But it’s Alfredo, the padrone and master, who is the true surrogate for both the audience and the director in the film. True, he’s a feckless, rich landowner, but he’s also the more conflicted character, the one who often tries to navigate some kind of middle ground. The film can imagine Alfredo in all his milquetoast cowardice, bemusement, and fear, in a way that it can’t with Olmo, the angelic and brave Marxist hero. I think Bertolucci understands this, to some extent: When Olmo shows up again here, towards the end of the film, he is first seen by his daughter Anita (Anna Henkel) in the heat of a revolutionary vision, and is thus presented as slightly unreal, a kind of fantasy.

So, when the film’s final act comes and Alfredo is beaten, it seemingly happens with the very approval of the film itself: the humiliation of our main directorial stand-in is presented as an occasion for joy, not fear or sadness or even reflection. This is where 1900 starts to really lose much of its audience; I know that it’s where it lost me when I first saw the film.* But I'm finally realizing that there's a lot more going on here than I once thought.

After a bit more pseudo-Maoist street theater and shots of revolutionaries hugging, something strange happens. Anita and the others grab their patchwork red flag and, screaming, run out of the courtyard, leaving Olmo, Alfredo, and a young boy alone. Suddenly, it’s as if that mass of angry peasants never existed in the first place. Alfredo gets up and says, smugly, “The Padrone is alive.” Olmo resists and tries to wrestle him down. The camera pulls away to reveal, far away, the peasants with the giant red flag still running, disappearing into the horizon like some distant cloud of revolution that has passed. We may now begin to wonder if this whole thing has been a dream of Olmo’s.

Robert De Niro surrenders.
And now things get truly bizarre: As Alfredo and Olmo struggle with each other like little kids, Bertolucci cuts to shots of them as old men, still fighting, along the train tracks where a couple of pivotal early scenes from their childhood took place -- a pretty obvious representation of the fact that the class struggle will always continue. Alfredo lies across the tracks, in an echo of a game the two played as kids. We see the train arriving –it’s festooned with red flags, like the workers’ express trains of their youth. The train goes over, and the film’s final shot – a freeze-frame – is actually a flashback: It shows Alfredo as a young boy, lying under the tracks, no longer perpendicular to them but parallel. It’s a scene from earlier in the film, when young Alfredo, who had been too much of a coward to join Olmo in this dangerous game, finally lay down on the tracks to let the train pass over him, proving his bravery at long last.

I’d always accepted this very final moment as Bertolucci’s cute and concise way of ending this unfilmable film, which at this point had gone beyond the level or fantasy to some weird purely symbolic realm (the landowner and the peasant as old men, still fighting, ho ho ho). But now it feels like the key to the film’s entire point of view. Bertolucci’s idealism is, at heart, an unforgiving exorcism of the self. In a sense, 1900, like Alfredo’s belated acceptance of Olmo’s dare, is the bourgeois director's own attempt to prove his socialist manhood. So maybe there’s something wistful about it, about Bertolucci returning to himself as a child and, perhaps settling some long-festering debt, finally laying down on the tracks and letting the engine of revolution pass over him.



*Bertolucci has said – many times – that the film’s portrait of Liberation Day is meant as a kind of Utopian projection, not an attempt to actually depict what happened (or even what might have happened) in 1945.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. All of the writing I have found on 1900 is so condescending and completely bored with the movie that it does me no good to read it. I swear if I read the statement "ambitious yet flawed" again.....

    This movie was so beautiful and baffling, a movie I am excited to grow old with. (You probably know what I mean.) There is so much humanity and beauty and sadness in the whole thing, rhythms and movements picked up on. It is challenging, to be sure, but it feels completely worth the effort invested in it. And I've only seen it once so far.

    You give a wonderful reading of the ending. Bertolucci laying himself on the tracks. Many believe that he wasn't the same after this film but they normally blame the movie in a negative way. Maybe it was a somewhat conscious decision as a result of finishing this mammoth project. I haven't seen enough of his films yet to state a position.

    I loved that moment with the giant flag receding into the countryside, as if the movement had served its purpose and now fades as only a memory, though the conflict between the two will continue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A big thanks to dr Ogbefun for helping me to cast death spell on my uncle who killed my parents because of his company, and the matter was taking to court and was not giving justice because i was not having any prove not until i came across this great spell caster online and i explain everything that happened to him and he promise to help me cast the spell within 48hours that i should send my uncle full name and his picture that is going to confess before he die which i did as he commanded. within 2days my uncle started confessing and finally die. am grateful for what dr Ogbefun did for me and with that i promise to share this testimony to all the viewers around the globe, after he cast the death spell. you can contact ogbefun for any death spell, such as to kill your superior in the office and take his or her place, death spell to kill your father and inherit his wealth ,death spell to kill anyone who have scammed you in the past ,spell for increase in salaries, spell for promotion at the office, spell to get your ex lover back, if things is not working well in your life then you need to contact him now via email ogbefunhearlingtemple@gmail.com add him on whatsapp line +2348102574680.

      Delete
    2. HOW I GOT MY HUSBAND BACK HOME WITH THE HELP OF A REAL AND GENUINE SPELL CASTER DR IFADE TEXT OR CONTACT VIA WHATSAPP +2349060120490.

      My name is KAYLEE TAYLOR am from united state, I almost took my life because of my husband who left me and stop picking my calls answering my mails and my messages. He said He do not trust me anymore, I tried to convince and beg him, but he will not believe or answer me until we had a fight and broke up for 6months, after then I realize I can not live without him because of the love I have for him. I tried everything possible to get him back, but non worked for me, some fake spell casters scammed me and went away with my money until I came across this man called Dr ifade he helped me cast a spell and behold my husband came back after 48 hours, begging me for forgiveness, I was so surprised that spell caster like Dr ifade still exist. If anyone here needs some help, with all sincerity, contact Dr IFADE today ifadesolutionspell31@gmail.com or Contact him via is whatsapp number +2349060120490 indeed you are a priest thank you for making my home a happy home again.i can never stop talking about you sir.
      DR IFADE is really a great man you can contact in any solution for any kind of problems like
      (1) lottery spell
      (2) ex back
      (3) get pregnant
      (4) cure for any kind of sickness,disease and infection
      And many others contact this great man today and get your Problems solved 100%


      HOW I GOT MY HUSBAND BACK HOME WITH THE HELP OF A REAL AND GENUINE SPELL CASTER DR IFADE TEXT OR CONTACT VIA WHATSAPP +2349060120490.

      My name is KAYLEE TAYLOR am from united state, I almost took my life because of my husband who left me and stop picking my calls answering my mails and my messages. He said He do not trust me anymore, I tried to convince and beg him, but he will not believe or answer me until we had a fight and broke up for 6months, after then I realize I can not live without him because of the love I have for him. I tried everything possible to get him back, but non worked for me, some fake spell casters scammed me and went away with my money until I came across this man called Dr ifade he helped me cast a spell and behold my husband came back after 48 hours, begging me for forgiveness, I was so surprised that spell caster like Dr ifade still exist. If anyone here needs some help, with all sincerity, contact Dr IFADE today ifadesolutionspell31@gmail.com or Contact him via is whatsapp number +2349060120490 indeed you are a priest thank you for making my home a happy home again.i can never stop talking about you sir.
      DR IFADE is really a great man you can contact in any solution for any kind of problems like
      (1) lottery spell
      (2) ex back
      (3) get pregnant
      (4) cure for any kind of sickness,disease and infection
      And many others contact this great man today and get your Problems solved 100%

      Delete
    3. I can’t believe this is really true I never believe there is cure to this hsv 2 because all the hospital have told me there is no cure to it, few months ago I saw this man email DR.AZIEGBE on internet from a testimony share by someone who he help with his herbal cure I contact his email and ask for his help also, that is how he inform me about the cure process and this man sent me a herbal medicine which I took according to the way he instructed for 2 week I can’t believe when I go for test my result come out negative i am so happy to share this to the world there is real cure to herpes you can also contact DR.AZIEGBE through his email now DRAZIEGBE1SPELLHOME@GMAIL. COM and also WhatsApp him +2349035465208. or my assistant whatsApp me +1 (601) 452-8622 or email: JAMESAVA0001@GMAIL. COM...
      He also have herbs medicine to cured the following diseases;
      Diabetes, Lupus, HPV, Gout, Hepatitis A,B, Infertility, HIV/AIDS, CANCER

      Delete
  2. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.azen how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. azen on his email:(azentemple@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr azen the great spell caster on his email addresses (azentemple@gmail.com)or whatsapp Dr azen on (+2349038299828)

    ReplyDelete
  3. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.azen how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. azen on his email:(azentemple@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr azen the great spell caster on his email addresses (azentemple@gmail.com)or whatsapp Dr azen on (+2349038299828)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can’t believe this is really true I never believe there is cure to this hsv 2 because all the hospital have told me there is no cure to it, few months ago I saw this man email DR.AZIEGBE on internet from a testimony share by someone who he help with his herbal cure I contact his email and ask for his help also, that is how he inform me about the cure process and this man sent me a herbal medicine which I took according to the way he instructed for 2 week I can’t believe when I go for test my result come out negative i am so happy to share this to the world there is real cure to herpes you can also contact DR.AZIEGBE through his email now DRAZIEGBE1SPELLHOME@GMAIL. COM and also WhatsApp him +2349035465208. or my assistant whatsApp me +1 (601) 452-8622 or email: JAMESAVA0001@GMAIL. COM...
    He also have herbs medicine to cured the following diseases;
    Diabetes, Lupus, HPV, Gout, Hepatitis A,B, Infertility, HIV/AIDS, CANCER

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello everyone out there, I'm here to give my testimony about a herbalist doctor who helped me. I was infected with HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS in 2011, I went to many hospitals to heal myself but there was no solution, so I was thinking how I can get a solution so that my body can be well. One day I was in the river thinking about where I can go to get a solution. so a lady walked towards me telling me why I'm so sad and I open everything by telling her my problem, she told me she could help me, she introduced me to a doctor who uses herbal medicines to cure the SIMPLEX HERPES VIRUS and gave me your email, so I sent you an email. He told me everything I had to do and also gave me instructions to take, which I followed correctly. Before I knew what was happening after two weeks, the SIMPLEX HERPES VIRUS that was in my body disappeared. therefore, if you also have a broken heart and need help, you can also send an email to {oliha.miraclemedicine@gmail.com}or whatsapp him number: +2349038382931 or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/drolihamiraclemedicine/
    Contact him today and he will have a testimony ... Good luck!

    Dr. OLIHA also cures:
    1. HIV / AIDS
    2. HERPES 1/2
    3. CANCER
    4. ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)
    5. Hepatitis B
    6. chronic pancreatic
    7. emphysema
    8. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sincerely i was so crushed when my Husband of 8 years left me and moved to Texas to be with another woman. The pains was just too much for me to bear that I couldn't just bear it anymore. I traveled to greet my friend and her family during Christmas celebration then i explained to her, how my husband has abandon me and my children for a period of time and be with another woman, and my friend told me about Dr Ogbefun the great spell caster who had helped her in the past before, when i contacted him with his email via ogbefunhearlingtemple@ gmail. com i explain to him, how my Husband has been with another woman for two year now and that's the problem am facing in my marriage now and i need to end it by killing her, and i don't want to make use of assassin because it will be risky so i needed to do it in a spiritual way that's why i decided to contact him, he assured me not to worry as i have contacted the right person at the right time, i co-operated with him and in less than a week she die, she slept and never woke up, and truly my husband come back apologizing that he never knew what came over him my husband apologize to me and we are happy family now. all thanks to dr ogbefun you can contact Dr Ogbefun for any death spell, such as killing your superior in the office and take his or her place.spell for increase in salaries, spell for promotion at the office, spell to get your ex lover back, if things is not working well in your life then you need to contact him now via website https://ogbefunhearlingtem.wixsite.com/spell or add him on whatsapp +2348102574680

    ReplyDelete
  7. God bless Dr Omohan for his marvelous work in my life, I was diagnosed of HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS since 2010 and I was taking my medications, I wasn't satisfied i needed to get the HERPES out of my system, I searched about some possible cure for HERPES i saw a comment about Dr Omohan, how he cured HERPES with his herbal medicine, I contacted him and he guided me. I asked for solutions, he started the remedy for my health, he sent me the medicine within 3days. I took the medicine as prescribed by him and 2weeks later i was cured from HERPES contact him via email dromohanherbalmedicine@gmail.com once again thanks to you Dr . omohan cure the flowing virus, contact his email or add him on whatsapp +2348164816038)

    cancer cure
    diabetes cure
    ringing ear
    herpes cure
    warts cure
    HPV cure
    HIV cure
    get your ex back
    pregnancy herbal medicine
    prostate enlargement
    Hepatitis

    ReplyDelete