Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Countries & Regions: Italy
Studio: British Film Institute
Length: 107 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 29 August 2011
Cat No: BFIB1099
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Before the Revolution
Cast: Adriana Asti , Francesco Barilli , Morando Morandini , Allen Midgette , Domenico Aldi , Cristina Pariset , Gianni Amico , Cecrope Barilli , Evelina Alpi , Goliardo Padova , Guido Fanti , Enrico Salvatore
Italian maestro Bernardo Bertolucci was just 22 years old when he directed this coming-of-age drama set in Parma. Loosely based on... Read More
For financial and practical reasons, the film medium has produced no actual child prodigies, but Bernardo Bertolucci was barely out of his teens when he made the recently reissued The Grim Reaper (1962), and just twenty-three when he wrote and directed Before the Revolution, his first major masterpiece.
The age is significant, as this is a young man's film in every way: sweepingly ambitious yet touchingly naïve, unmistakably autobiographical yet filtered through the prism of an obsessive cinephilia - there are nods galore both to older Italian masters like Rossellini and Antonioni and Bertolucci's own contemporaries Godard and Truffaut (the French New Wave directors reciprocated by taking Bertolucci's film to their hearts, and its belated release in Paris in early 1968 turned it into a genuine cause célèbre when the student protests began that May).
Although set in the then present, it was loosely inspired by Stendhal's 1839 novel The Charterhouse of Parma, from which Bertolucci took the location (his own birthplace), the names of the principal characters and their broad-brushstroke dilemmas, though the graphic fusion of politics and sexuality is now clearly recognisable as a Bertolucci trademark.
Idealistic student Fabrizio (Francesco Barilli) is all too conscious that his bourgeois background makes him an unconvincing Marxist, and his political faith is badly dented when a close friend commits suicide. This emotional trauma leads him into a passionate relationship with his alluring young aunt Gina (Adriana Asti, Bertolucci's own wife at the time), a far more genuinely subversive act than anything in his fiery rhetoric, complicated further by Gina's all too evident emotional instability. But while Clelia (Cristina Pariset) might be a better match for Fabrizio, her wealthy background and conservative God-fearing outlook couldn't be further removed from his professed revolutionary ideals, forcing him to choose between idealism and practicality, family and freedom. And will he ever convincingly link his own painfully limited experience of life to the struggles of the oppressed masses?
The film has a visual eloquence that completely belies its director's relative inexperience, and the lush score blends original Ennio Morricone with appropriately doom-laden extracts from Verdi's Macbeth.