The Venice Film Festival celebrates its 70th year as the pinnacle of the Italian film industry running from August 28th until September 7th. As a salute to the oldest film festival in the world, Swide chooses five films that were set in Venice.
set in Venice
The Venice International Film Festival runs from August 28th to September 7th, in this its 70th year. Swide is excited about this year’s line-up, so in preparation for the films we’ve been waiting for here are five of our favourite films set in Venice.
Bread and tulips – Pane e tulipani by Silvio Soldini (2000)
Silvio Soldini directs this gentle comedy about a middle –aged house wife Rosalba (Licia Maglietta), who, stranded at a bus station while returning home from a trip, diverts whimsically to Venice and experiences life of another flavour amongst a clutch of the city’s eccentrics. Rosalba’s humdrum existence in Pescara with teenage sons and a coarse and unfaithful plumber husband are momentarily packed away as Rosalba is surrounded by the crumbling beauty of ‘La Serenissima’. However, her husband sends a bumbling detective Costantino (Giuseppe Battiston), to track her down.
The film tackles lofty subjects such as life’s disappointment and broken dreams and whips them into a breezy comedy, with an ultimately positive and empowering message of love amidst a mid-life crisis. With 9 David di Donatello and 5 Nastro Argento awards the film went on to become one of those beguiling films that captivates the world at large.
Senso by Luchino Visconti (1954)
Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of Camilo Boito’s novella of the same name, stars Alida Valli as Livia Serpieri, an aristocratic Italian, who, unhappily married to an older man, falls tragically for a dashing young Austrian officer Lieutenant Franz Mahler (Farley Granger). Against a tumultuous backdrop of the dying days of the Italian-Austrian war of unification, the Italians seethe with nationalistic resistance to seemingly inevitable Austrian annex. Livia throws herself whole-heartedly into the affair with the Austrian officer only to be ultimately be scorned by a boorish brute, sending her insane as her country falls.
Visconti originally wanted to cast Ingrid Bergman and Marlon Brando in the lead roles, but Bergman was uninterested in the part, while Brando was favoured by the films producers because it was thought Granger was the bigger star at the time. The film romanticises the affair between the two main parties, but the more unsavoury subjects of vanity and lust lurk just below the surface.
Death in Venice – Morte a Venezia by Luchino Visconti (1971)
Visconti’s 1971 masterpiece is based on the novella ‘Death in Venice’ by Thomas Mann and follows protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) who travels to Venice for health reasons and becomes obsessed with the beauty of a young Polish boy Tadzio (Bjorn Andresen) who is staying at the same Grand Hotel des Bains with his family as Aschenbach.
The character of Aschenbach is loosely based on the composer Gustav Mahler and the tourists roam the city unaware that Venice is in the grip of a Cholera epidemic. Originally feared that the films subject matter would be considered obscene, the director’s original intention of the boy Tadzio as a symbol of Renaissance beauty on a pair with Michelangelo’s David was widely accepted and the film was a commercial and critical success.
Giordano Bruno by Giuliano Montaldo (1973)
Based on the last years and execution of Italian Dominican Friar, philosopher, mathematician, astrologer and astronomer whose beliefs went beyond the Copernican model (placing the stationary Sun at the centre of the universe, close to Earth) and theorised that it was merely a star and that the universe contained an infinite number of planets inhabited by other intelligent beings. He was tried for heresy, found guilty and burned at the stake in the Campo de’Fiori in Rome in 1600.
Chronicling the downfall of who is now considered a martyr of science, the film was framed the Venetian backdrop as seen in Renaissance paintings, epic, serious, beautiful and scored by maestro Ennio Morricone to boot.
Fellini’s Casanova – Il Casanova di Fellini by Federico Fellini (1976)
Fellini’s depiction of the young, errant Casanova who gets continuously drawn into absurd situations due to his base urges stars Donald Sutherland in the lead role. Originally Robert Redford was mooted to be cast, but Fellini wouldn’t hear of it, instead he cast the Englishman and forced him to wear prosthetic nose and chin.
Fellini’s unsympathetic view of the promiscuous Casanova is a grim and ruthless depiction of a compulsive human being incapable of displaying any real emotion. The whole thing is pinned upon Fellini’s trademark surrealism and sumptuous visual flair. Sutherland hams the role brilliantly in an attempt to depict the ‘hero’s’ debauchery.
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