The timeless character of this film made in 1951 by Luchino Visconti, is already clear in its synopsis: The story of Maddalena (a nurse), who inscribes his daughter Maria, in a contest that aims to elect the most beautiful girl in Italy. The contest represents a ticket to give the daughter a life that oscillates between dignity and luxury, being that mother-protagonist, ready to everything to guarantee the victory of the daughter.
Stories of parents who sacrifice everything to ensure a better future for their children are certainly nothing new, on the contrary, from the most distant Eastern stories, passing through the cradle of human history with Greek culture, we are not missing examples of similar plots, and Which we can witness until today, with reality shows of the type, small missiles, for new soccer players, young competitions to discover new talents ... finally, a range of offers where we have the presence of children, but in the absence of childhood, and Of parents who can be understood through the theories of the creator of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, especially in the idea of ??projection, where the wishes of parents are employed in the figure of their children. The desire to stand out in something that many times the parents did not or did not have opportunity, even if consciously or unconsciously, in which, the recognition of this projection occurs through victory in contests, social position and also of a financial bias, Being the latter, the defensible desire of Maddalena (Anna Magnani), since it seems to be the guarantee of a more dignified life for the girl Maria Cecconi (Tina Apicella).
In a large part of this story that sometimes takes situations and absurd moments, facing a desire that borders the limitations of vision, rationality and absurdity when showing the starting points, play and finalize this saga. That is drawn by a mother motivated by the future of her daughter, this dramatic dimension that is characteristic to the film, if diluted wisely in moments of comedy. Maddalena's attitudes are laughable, all the more so as in the lack of artistic talent of her daughter. This laughs at the other, the role of a fool that plays this mother not to notice in the daughter who lacks other attributes, and the belief that the beauty of the girl, added to the interference of this mother, as in trying to buy the jurors or get someone inside the Production of the film that highlights the test of Maria, that this sum can interfere in the result and consecrate in the victory of Maddalena through the small daughter.
The wisdom of this laughter is to present a fable whose morality is not presented in an educated way, in a didactic way, on the contrary, it is a fable of chaos and subtlety before an understandable and even justifiable desire, at the same time, which is a reflection of the few Apparent opportunities to overcome oneself in life, where the lack of perspectives of justice and social equality and disbelief in the projected education even in the incapacity of the child (for, as Maddalena suggests, in small personal confessions: her daughter is a fool), What remains, the only possibility, is to count on the opportunities of escape that insert those who stand out for characteristics or qualities inherent in their person, in the case of Mary, the beauty of children. In Maddalena's case, perhaps, perseverance.
With all the merits of a timeless story, and without regret the fact that the director had in hand a material very close to the neo-realist films that consecrated him, that is, to have something very close to the style that was customary to do, but that is Rejected in "Bellissima", approaching this story through the realistic bias, in which, personally, I consider that it was desirous to the producers of the film and to the director to present a more comprehensive aspect of the fable, considering the common character of this story, that happens and repeats itself In life, and which is now reflected on canvas, but which, in abandoning a reflection of this realism pertaining to a certain social reality, generates a filmic approach that equates maternal desires, however, disproportionate and invalid in face of class differences and consequently incapable of generating Changes, or results, how can you compete with a family that already has a wide advantage?
This inequality of classes is mentioned and treated very superficially in the small plots in which they are presented, this minimizes the strength and potentiality of Visconti and Bellissima, since the approach in which it is presented (its form), makes it impossible for itself speech. The struggle to overcome class differences, through methods that reinforce and contribute to these differences. In truth, the mother does not struggle to overcome anything, she wants only to belong to something, and in the end, when she perceives this world of cruel differences that she admired and in which she ended up collaborating, it becomes, then, the moment of rationality and revolt of Maddalena. In portraying cinema as a microcosm of a prosperous world in advantageous possibilities, Visconti satirizes the film industry itself and human innocence in the face of its belief in possibility and belonging. This belief that induces the ability to use mechanisms, but is already dominated by commercial interests, which among others, result in the strengthening of class differences and simulate a fantasy world, such as the cinema and its benefits.
These fantasies are so close to the life of Maddalena that they take up the outside of their house, from the balcony it is possible to see a square taken by the projection of films, and this is taken by countless people watching the movies, but who are these people? In an Italy that sought to modernize and become an expression of progress, abandoned the countryside and taming machines, among them the cinema that was between the interest of being art and being propaganda of this new Italy in the eyes of the world, we have the meeting of this public Which oscillates between the desire to win, also to that of Maddalena, but also to feel part of this modernity, an identification that sometimes produces an inverse effect, since distance from so many differences, also equal to the outcome of Maddalena and her daughter , Now aware of its use as mass, and of the position they occupy in the world that distinguishes between citizens.
The entire film is anchored by the magnetic and fascinating performance of Anna Magnani, who fills the entire screen with a fiery vitality and intensity that is almost impossible to look away. In 1951, she was one of the queens of Italian cinema and was already echoing all over the world. Anna was the favorite actress of Bette Davis, and Bette considered Anna's performance in "Bellissima" as: brilliant, uninhibited and full of immense power. There is hardly a moment in the movie where it is still or silent. Visconti, almost exclusively, records Anna in medium and full planes, giving her ample room for compositions and promoting seams from one end of the frame to the other.
Wisely perceptible from the strength of the actress's facial gaze and physiognomy, the director punctuates key moments and builds entire paragraphs of silences. It uses "close" and "big close" Anna's face, to generate maximum expressiveness and communicate through the absence of words, but occasion in a verbiage of states that Magnani can express. It is necessary to emphasize the great game that Anna made possible within the limits of contraction with Tina Apicella. By the time of "Bellissima", Tina had just turned five, the discovery and the invitation to the young actress, departed from Visconti. Despite having beautiful moments, his great mark in this work is the ease (sometimes boring), of crying. Highlight the scene in what, when arriving at home and perhaps by order of the mother, the girl does not tell anything about what she did that day, when she was put to sleep by her father, and this when informing her that the next day irar takes her there To take ice cream, she responds that she needs to study, the father withdraws, extinguishes the light and the small cry between the fright and the despair, because, still so new, already has the responsibility to appease and to save that family.
Between several scenes of fade-in and fade-out that stitch together the film, between jumps of episodic events that collaborate for the construction and the outcome of the plot, it calls the photographic proposal of Piero Portalupi and Paul Ronald, who basically establish a climate of life Obscure in the apartment of Maddalena, in contrast, the reflectors and dazzle of lights of the "Cinecittà", a directing of light that directs not only the convicted desire of Maddalena, but with only enlightened path that offers a perspective, a way out that life between Shadows Another great moment of mastery of this photograph is in the game between half light that illuminates faces or that highlight one among many others, a clear allusion to the pursuit of brilliance and own light that dialogue and much for the construction of "Beautiful".
Although not the most interesting film of Visconti, and leaving aside many of the brands that have consecrated it, "Bellissima" is an interesting work and that dialogues with the contemporary world, and possibly dialogues with the future world, since between the social differences Which we both struggle to overcome, are often unconsciously reinforced through a selfish struggle that seeks only to save some and not realize that it will only result when we understand the need for a whole. Luchino Visconti was able to write for our eyes, an important social and cultural document that reflects on yesterday, analyzes the present and provides paths for tomorrow.
The ending is extreme and frustrating. Maddalena has learned her lesson, but at the cost of everything and everyone. Now, finally, when she needs it, she won't sell out. She's managed to help her husband arc into a more sensitive, less abusive person - he'd previously been vilified. They both had their fair share of villainy. The two end shots are perfect, on the parents' embrace, and the coda push-in on their child.
Bellissima was primarily characterized by medium shots in which the figures and parts of the background were visible. However, in this dramatic shot featuring Maria, it is clear that Visconti wanted to not only visually confront the viewer but also emotionally confront the viewer. Moreover, this tactic visually cues the viewer to recognize that the climax is taking place.
Anna Magnani is terrific as a mother who wants her daughter to become an actress. "Bellissima" criticizes the cinema industry in a dramatic way that only a director like Visconti could have done.
Anna Magnani is a true delight!
*Review coming soon*