100th anniversary of Visconti’s birth

Visconti - aristocrat with leftist points of view

Was French poetic realism, from which Visconti’s curious spirit drew his inspiration,at the root of the paradox that this representative of the aristocracy initiated the new author poetics, which focused on ordinary reality and was known as neo-realism?

Was the great Jean Renoir, with whom Luchino Visconti gained his first film experiences as his assistant, crucial for the early turning of the young aristocrat towards the lower Italian social class - the workers? And was French poetic realism, from which the curious spirit of young patricians drew their inspiration, at the root of the paradox that Visconti, a representative of the aristocracy, initiated the new author poetics, which focused on ordinary reality and was known as neo-realism? The answer, Yes, to both questions is supported by a convincing argument - his two first feature films, Ossessione (1942) that shows the grey, dreary and hopeless Italian provincial life and The Earth Trembles (1948) that promotes common fishermen into heroes (who “play” themselves and communicate amongst each other with a made up language that only they understand). These two films remind us of documentaries as well as antic tragedies. Twelve years later he returned to the working class and a stratified analysis of the social reality of his country in his three-hour-long feature film Rocco and His Brothers.

Visconti was an author of fascinating erudition and renaissance potential (besides directing films, he wrote about film, and directed theatre plays and operas), and granted the biggest part of himself to his own class - the aristocracy. Visconti, now in a climate of very artificial and stylistically carefully elaborated narration and based on examples of certain family structures, heavily criticized and questioned the roots of deep moral degradation of the class at the top of the social pyramid. In The Leopard (1963) the old protagonist, wary of playful superficiality and with an agile adaptability to capitalism in his surroundings, remains stoically faithful to his (self destructive) principles and is ready, like the captain of a luxurious ship that is leaking, to peacefully sink into the depths. On the other hand, the furious mob from Of a Thousand Delights (1965), haunted by demons from the past (Auschwitz, incest...), has trouble dealing with threats of the complete decay of the psychological as well as existential foundations of a shaken family.

In his film The Damned (1969) Visconti made an allusion to the Krupp family. Even though he was obsessed with German culture, Visconti actually revealed the dark side of German society from the perspective of the shaken family Essenbeck, which among other things has a member of the Nazi troops its ranks. Between the starting and ending fire scenes depicting “the night of long knives” we meet many morbid and unscrupulous characters who are haunted by their insatiable hunger for power.

The whole of Visconti’s opus (which includes Bellissima, The Witches, Conversation Piece, Death in Venice, Ludwig, White Nights, The Stranger) literally swarms with a variety references (to literature, theatre, music and generalculture).

The coherence of his work is based on a familiarity with some stylistic elements typical for Visconti, such as slow development of action, long shots with totals, panoramas and zooms, the importance of set design and costumes, experiments with colors, spectacular visual style and evocations of the baroque, similarity to melodrama and opera, and a tendency to global metaphor. (Petar Krelja)