The Conformist(1970) is a film by Bernardo Bertolucci based on a book by Alberto Moravia. I originally saw it in the context of an Italian film class, but have likely watched it 20 times since. It is near impossible to find the original version. Mostly only the English dubbed version is available.

SPOILER ALERT. I am not going to tell the whole plot, but will discuss many points.

The Conformist was the first movie made in Italy to broach the subject of fascism. It was quite controversial at the time because it portrays the main fascist character, Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant), humanistically.

Many people find it confusing due because the majority of the film is set in a traveling car with an incredible amount of flashbacks. It goes through stories from his childhood, his marriage, and how he became part of the fascist regime. The climax of the film happens when the car catches up with the other car it is following.

The film argues that everything he does in his life- all major decisions- are based on his desire to create normalcy. He seems to think of himself as a deviant- but wants to correct that. He decides to serve the government in order to repay society for a crime he believes he committed halfway accidentally as a child.

Throughout the movie there is a focus on repeating patterns of black and white. It is incredibly photographic- in that, every frame could be a still image. Bertolucci also uses strange diagonal camera angles, esp for when it was made.

One moment that deserves particular attention... Marcello travels to Paris on assignment. He is supposed to murder his old professor. They have a meeting in a dark office in which they recount a past lecture. Together they tell the allegory of the cave by Plato. Not only does this mimic the original format of the allegory (conversation between student and teacher), but it also makes direct connections to fascism, AND to the medium of film itself. (reread the allegory with these two things in mind to get an idea of how smart this moment in the film is.)

The whole work is an incredible interweaving discussion of sexual experiences, political issues, religious hypocrisy, and film grammar. The characters are incredibly complex and beautiful. His mother is a morphine addict, his father is institutionalized, the woman he marries is a gorgeous 'petty bourgeois,' the woman he wishes to have an affair with is married to his past professor but comes on to his wife. Bisexual themes run throughout the film, which complicates things further.

Many scenes are quite memorable. He tells a priest that it seems the church believes sodomy is a worse crime than murder. In a train his wife tells him of past sexual abuse as the Italian country side rolls by... and he starts to undress her. A scene in the mental hospital in which he questions his father about the use of castor oil in the past sends his father into a fury. Near the end there is a brutal woodland murder... shot with a handheld camera while they walk/run... quite intense and shocking. One of the last scenes has the sculpted head of Mussolini being dragged through the streets and Marcello leaving his blind friend to fend for himself, announcing to the angry crowd that his friend is a fascist.

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