Watching Visconti's The Innocent

L'innocente (The Innocent)
directed by Luchino Visconti
Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli and Jennifer O'Neill

I rarely watch TV, although it has done something of a comeback these long summer nights.
One of these nights I watched a rather peculiar film, The Innocent (L'innocente). A certain TV channel has a fascination with old Italian cinema, playing its films night after night.

The film is the last one Visconti directed, and is itself based on a 1892 novel by Gabriele D'Annunzio. It portrays in a fascinating way the aristocratic environment of late 19th century Rome. Under all the formalities and social rigidities of the time, we see people consumed by their passions.

A wealthy, handsome aristocrat (Giancarlo Giannini) pays scant attention to his loyal wife (Laura Antonelli), while being absorbed by an equally beautiful and self-absorbed countess (Jennifer O'Neill). He doesn't try to conceal his affairs from his wife, and is very sure of himself, until, his lonely, quiet wife draws the attention of another man. 

The story unfolds around that trio of characters, with the man being redrawn to his marriage. For a moment it looks like he wants to give life to his marriage, but it seems his interest is focused on his demand from his wife to abort the pregnancy her lover caused. 

His harshness and arrogance seem too much to accept, but should we be surprised? And I don't think this behaviour characterises the most wealthy only. Rather, it is a symptom of a society that applies strict social codes, especially to women, and gives to certain of its members such social power so that they grow insensitive to others. Why shouldn't people be free to associate with whoever they choose to, and set themselves free when they judge they should do so? In that respect, our times are perhaps better than older ones.

However, what is even more surprising is the wife's behaviour. I think she really hoped for her marriage to succeed and ignored all her husband's infidelities. Her unnerving patience seems inexhaustible, but, as the film shows, it isn't.
The film ends in the most unexpected way... 

Although it is a dated movie, and that shows, it keep your interest to the the very end. The direction is cohesive, the scenography very persuasive and the acting great indeed.

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