Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fellini's 'La Strada'

Martin and I recently watched Federico Fellini's La Strada (stay tuned for his more sophisticated opinions), on a special edition DVD introduced by Martin Scorcese. Scorcese cites Fellini as a seminal influence; watching La Strada, it's easy to see how.

La Strada (meaning The Road) tells the story of a young, simple woman, Gelsomina (played by Fellini's wife Giuletta Marsina), who is sold to a travelling circus strongman to work as an assistant clown, cook, and concubine. She is simple-minded, innocent, sweet, and loving; he is brutish, arrogant, and very angry. The film was mostly about him brutalizing her in spite of her efforts to love him, and his eventual self destruction because of his own anger.

Sound familiar? It was very much like Raging Bull, only this one at least had one sweet and likeable character. Gelsomina stays with Zampano despite being given opportunities to leave him; the idea, I suppose, is that her love will ultimately redeem him. The tragedy of the film, however, is that it doesn't; at the end we see Zampano miserable and, we can assume, remorseful, but is that enough after Gelsomina has sacrificed her life loving him?

The story was practically the definition of tragic, but I couldn't help wanting to give Gelsomina the most basic piece of advice ever given to a young girl: you can't change that man! I suppose,though, that wasn't the point - we were meant to watch her tragic innocence trampled by the brutal cruelty of a world that doesn't care how sweet your intentions are.

What it comes down to, then, is that this is just a genre of film that I don't like - I don't enjoy watching angry self-destruction and pointless tragedy. I'd rather see a compelling story or some sort of anecdote to the anger and sorrow of daily life. There are so many angry people in the world - you only need to go as far as the grocery store to see people yelling, shouting into phones, suffering from the angst and anger of going through life concerned only with yourself. I think I'll avoid Fellini's and Scorcese's furious, 'raging' characters and turn to cinema for beauty and something uplifiting - escapism, I guess, but isn't that the point of film anyway? It's what I'd prefer, at least.


Scott E said...

I thought a better Fellini movie was "Nights of Cabiria", also starring Giulietta Masina. It too is a "tragic" story but without the "raging" of "La Strada".

Halfling.Steve said...

'Suffering Leading to a Purpose' is an important part of the audience being psychologically sutured into the world of film (according to Stan Williams).

I heard that in a college class somewhere, it had a pretty knowledgeable professor too.

It's just not a satisfying story if the tragedy has no positive outcome. It would stick in our mind, but it's not something we would enjoy, and perhaps not something we would believe either.

scott e said...

So....that would mean that most of Shakespeare's tragedies are not satisfying stories? Unless you can think of a positive outcome for Hamlet. I can't.

I think the point of many tragic stories is to illustrate the consequences of certain actions.

Matthew said...

Steve I think there's a difference between suffering leading to a purpose and suffering leading to a positive outcome. I think Scott E or Scotty or whatever his name is has a point.

scott e said...

Yes, I do, actually. That's why I part my hair on the side. (it makes the point less noticeable)

Matthew said...

Hey Martin I'm waiting on a HSM2 post!!!

Martin Harold said...

It's coming...

Martin Harold said...

I just have to gird my loins and watch it. I haven't mustered up the courage yet.

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