1900 (Novecento)

1977

1900 (Novecento)

Critics Consensus

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50%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 16

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,985
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Movie Info

Director Bernardo Bertolucci's epic detailing Italy's social and political progress. Burt Lancaster, Gerard Depardieu, Robert De Niro, Sterling Hayden, Donald Sutherland, Dominique Sanda.

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Critic Reviews for 1900 (Novecento)

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (4)

Audience Reviews for 1900 (Novecento)

  • Oct 23, 2016
    A dreadful little politically charged film without any factual evidence to back up the story, it is not only long but the acting and story were both ludicrous, definitely avoid if possible.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Aug 05, 2013
    I would sarcastically say that it's a big surprise to see Robert De Niro in an epic by a mid-to-late 20th century Italian filmmaker, but it's kind of easy to forget those other Italian epics that featured De Niro, not necessarily because this film tops, say, "The Godfather Part II" or "Once Upon a Time in America" in terms of quality by an immense margin ("The Deer Hunter" was good, too, but jeez, Michael Cimino, pick up the pace a bit), but because it tops most epics starring, well, anybody in terms of length by an immense margin. Hm, we're looking at a cast featuring Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland and Burt Lancaster, symbolism-heavy reflections of subject matter dealing with Italian politics of the 20th century, and a 316-minute runtime, so do you reckon that this film might be a little bit ambitious? Well, I reckon Bernardo Bertolucci figured out how to make a film that is somehow longer than the fabled original cut of "Last Tango in Paris", though it's debatable whether or not this film is more [u]over[/u]long, because this five-hour-and-a-quarter-long epic chronicles the entire lives and time of two men facing political intrigue, warfare and all sorts of other juicy material during conflicts that extended throughout a European civilization, and quite frankly, I don't know what you can do to fill out four hours and a quarter of Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider having an affa-oh, wait. Hey, this film also had some trouble with the ratings boards, so it's hard to not get a little bit concerned that this film may end up being five hours and a quarter mostly of sexual intrigue, rather than political intrigue, but no, this epic isn't that much fun, or at least that's what most critics have been saying. I for one found this film to be pretty entertaining much more often than not, as well it should be, because, I repeat, [b][u]"316 minutes"![/b][/u] Man, the film's a little bit old and is so anti-commercial that it ranks among some of your longer feature films ever, and plenty of critics, even in retrospect, aren't that crazy about this thing, and I can't say that I'm completely blind to the complaints. Don't get me wrong, this film is three hours and a quarter spent well and all, but the point is that this film has more than enough time to meet quality with shortcomings. Keeping itself occupied with plenty of intriguing and atmospherically flavored up material, this film is, like I said, generally pretty entertaining, which is good, considering the final product's overwhelming length, and yet, considering this length, the film, as you can imagine, perhaps has more opportunities for atmospheric meditativeness than it needs, so it's only a matter of time before all of the thoughtful steadiness in atmospheric pacing stops soaking up intrigue and starts to really limp out, blanding things up a bit, and occasionally even dulling things down. Do note that I just said that this film is "occasionally" rather dull, because as excessively sprawling and atmospherically chilled as this film is, particularly limp slow spells are more limited in severity than they are sparse, so an even more problematic aspect to storytelling is, as irony would have it, the moments that are much less ponderous and much more, if you will, "fluffy", because as much as the film wants to be taken seriously and can, in fact, be taken seriously, there is plenty of corny comic relief and overly lighter moments, anchored by questionable dialogue and character behavior which can also be found within the dramatic material. The film is frequently genuinely compelling, but its often mighty melodramatic plot is far from consistently genuine, offering very manufactured-feeling conflicts and even characters who may be well-rounded and well-portrayed enough to be thoroughly compelling, but feel kind of superficially drawn in plenty of key areas, and betray attempts at thematic subtlety found throughout this symbolism-heavy drama almost as much as anything from gratuitously blatant overemphasis on disturbing or sexual imagery, to a rather overblown atmosphere. The passion that director Bernardo Bertolucci pumps into this film is very noble, and it carries the final product quite a distance, but for every moment in which Bertolucci charges effective areas in storytelling, he charges a questionable area, as he is just too ambitious for his own good, and arguably no other aspect reflects that more than the film's length. I have been saying it time and again throughout this review, and I'm going to say once again that this film, at its apparently most realized, runs five hours and a quarter, and I'm sorry, but that is just way too blasted long, for although this film's subject matter has plenty of sweep to it that Bertolucci takes more than enough time fleshing out, the excessively steady plot structure makes the rises and falls in narrative relatively sparse, and leaves the final product to often wonder down a dragged out path repetitiously, maybe even aimlessly. The film is certainly quite the investment, and one that the patient will find paid off with compellingness through and through, though not as much as Bertolucci clearly wants to deliver, for although the final product proves to be rewarding, - like you would hope it would be, considering the immensity of the subject matter - dry spells, cheesy spells and aimless spells betray the final product's potential and drag it short of what it could have been. Still, what the final product ultimately is is worthy enough to bypass its shortcomings as thoroughly engaging, as well as artistically sharp. Why, this 1970s Italian epic just wouldn't be complete without a score courtesy of the great Signor Ennio Morricone, no matter how unevenly used it may be, and you best believe that I'm glad to be faced with that predictable aspect of this film, for although Morricone's musical efforts are, as I just said, unevenly played up, as well as relatively formulaic as one of your more notorious Ennio Morricone soundtracks, they consistently boast enough of Morrione's distinctly lovely taste in subtle dynamicity, lightly sweeping heart and classical kick to be both beautiful by their own right and complimentary to the film's atmospheric depth and artistic value. Of course, compliments to the artistic sharpness of the film also extend to visual style, because as surely as Morricone was one heck of an Italian score composer for his time, Vittorio Storaro was one heck of an Italian cinematographer of this time, as he firmly reminds you in this film, not just with a stylishly airtight taste in shot staging and scope that is both grand enough to capture the scope of the sweeping subject matter's broader areas, and intimate enough to draw you into the more human depths of the film's visuals, but with a pronounced taste in color and haunting lighting that often leaves the film to almost resemble a painting. Considering the names behind artistic punch-up, the film's musical and photographic styles are as lovely as you might expect, and such artistic inspiration helps in defining the film's depth, but only helps. What can truly make or break this film is its storytelling, which must be inspired in order to do justice to subject matter this immense and layered, and is, even on paper, because no matter how bloated and heavy-handed Franco Arcalli's and Bernardo and Giuseppe Bertolucci's script is, it often compensates for questionable areas in characterization with unapologetically exhaustive expository depth that fleshes out memorable and compelling, if sometimes hard to buy characters, brought to life by strong performances. I suppose Donald Sutherland steals the show with his thoroughly charismatic, subtly intense and all around committed portrayal of an unsubtle- I mean, sleazy, disturbed and all around questionable fascist revolutionary, but there are commendable performances throughout the film, particularly those of leading men Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu, as well as a particular offscreen one. Bernardo Bertolucci, as director, is, of course, startlingly ambitious, and such passion not only emphasizes the areas in which the film falls short, but inspires questionable storytelling moves that further hold the promising effort back, yet at the same time, the heart the Bertolucci backs his meditative storytelling with soaks up the value of this story every bit as much as it soaks up the flaws in storytelling, and let me tell you, there is much value to this imperfectly told story. I don't know if I would necessarily call the film a mess, but it has messy areas and is just too promising - both in terms of potential and making promises - for you to ignore the shortcomings, and that's a shame, because with this filmmaking team, length and subject matter, we could have seen some pretty powerful cinema, rather than this flawed flick that is still quite rewarding, challenging the audience, not simply with shortcomings, but with audacious strengths, and those willing to run with this undeniably inspired epic may not find an outstanding final product, but will most likely be compelled through the thick and thin found throughout a thick runtime. When it's all said and... I think done (It's hard to figure out when this film ends), overwhelming ambition both emphasizes and is betrayed by some slow spells and some questionable moderate cheesiness within both lighter areas and a melodramatic story, while granting the film a sprawling length that sends the film aimlessly wandering along, giving you time to soak up the other problems, until the final product falls short of what it could have been, yet still thrives as rewarding through the lovely score work and cinematography, well-fleshed out writing and inspired performances - both on and off the screen - that make "1900", or "Novecento", an entertaining and thoroughly engaging epic whose bloating goes matched by compellingness. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 26, 2011
    '1900' is a gargantuan, multi-lingual, five-hour epic that has some inspired moments but for the most part spins its wheels. Very often it is laughably bad. Writer/director Bernardo Bertolucci seems to have been inspired by the 'Godfather' epic, even to the point where he hired Robert De Niro as one of his lead actors. But '1900' is vastly inferior to Francis Ford Coppola's 'Godfather' films. The central gimmick is that two boys are born on the same day on a remote Italian plantation in the year 1900. One is a peasant; the other is the plantation owner's son. The boys become very close and intimate, so much so that they masturbate together on more than one occasion. But they are not boyfriends. As adults they are played by Gerard Depardieu (the peasant) and de Niro. But Bertolucci doesn't so much care about these men as individuals; he cares about using them to explore issues of class and politics. The two are stand-ins for the socio-political struggles that made the first half of the 20th century so tumultuous, especially in Europe. Depardieu is the Communist-Supporting Peasantry, and de Niro the Fascist-Supporting Aristocracy. Bertolucci assembled an international cast, with each actor delivering lines in his native language, be it Italian, English, or French. He then added dubbing to release the film in each country with no subtitles. Thus in the American version, de Niro's vocal track is normal, but Depardieu and all the Italian actors are dubbed. And it's the worst dubbing job I think I've ever seen. Dubbing almost never works, but here it's a disaster. Nothing is quite so ridiculous as hearing Italian peasants sound like perky American college students. The politics are also laughably simplistic and one-sided. The Communists are all depicted as earnest do-gooders, and the Fascists are depicted as those who rape and kill schoolboys and then arrest peasants for these crimes. (There is an odd undercurrent of homo-eroticism through the entire project, complete with de Niro and Depardieu doing full-frontal nudity together during yet another masturbation scene.) Donald Sutherland plays the biggest, baddest Black Shirt in the village. He does what he can to give the acting credibility, but there's not much you can do when the characterization is so ridiculous. Sutherland's Fascist girlfriend has a bizarre voice that makes her sound like Satan from 'The Exorcist,' which had come out just two years prior. I honestly think that Bertolucci looked for an actress who could do that voice. Oh, Bernardo, what the hell was going on for you during this strange project?
    William D Super Reviewer
  • Feb 23, 2011
    Bernardo Bertolucci's Novecento has five hours and fifteen minutes and before we know it this historical epic ends and we're left craving for more. That's the ultimate grace of Bertolucci's masterpiece: one never feels the movie's length; it flows and involves us so hypnotically in its story that we lose sense of time. The story is so finely constructed, the actors so good, the cinematography so breath-taking, the music so exciting, that one curses the unavoidable moment when the credits roll down the screen. Released in 1976, Novecento is, as the title says it, a story of Italy in the 20th century, from its beginning to the year of its release. Known in the USA as 1900, I chose the Italian title because this one misleading. The action starts the year Italian composer Verdi dies, so it's actually 1901 (Bertolucci knows the Gregorian calendar unlike the majority who believe in pop culture). Two children are born, Alfredo and Olmo, the first the heir of the Berlinghieri estate and fortune, the second the bastard offspring of Alfredo's father and a peasant woman from the Dalco clan. They grow together and their lives, although going in different ways many times, continue to intertwine throughout the decades, from the aftermath of WWI to the rise of Fascism in Italy, to the liberation of Italy in 1945; they're always together until their old age. Novecento is effectively about the organisation of the labour rights movement in Italy and its clashes with Fascism. Olmo (Gérard Depardieu), returned from the WWI, sees communism as a way of uniting the peasants in the struggle for better wages and more rights and end the hunger and humiliations perpetuated by the padrones, the bosses. Parallel to the labour rights movement's organisation is the rise of fascism, embodied by Attila Mellanchini (Donald Sutherland), the Berlinghieri forearm who organizes the local Black Shirts. In the middle of this struggle is Alfredo (Robert DeNiro), a bon vivant who only seeks pleasure and finds love in Ada (Dominique Sanda), an avant-garde woman who fascinates him with her sense of modernity. Unwilling kept away from the war thanks to his father's money, Alfredo sees Olmo's return as good news until politics and his inevitable fate of becoming the new padrone get in the way, not to mention his inability to stand up to Attila. The film is shot in four sections, each one employing a different color palette, to represent each station of the year. So the first part, Olmo and Alfredo's birth and childhood, is bathed in bright summer colors; the WWI's aftermath is filmed with autumnal browns. The Fascist reign is grey and drenched in winter rains, and only Italy's liberation gives the movie its bright early colors with the coming of springtime. This is one of the greatest achievements of Vittorio Storaro, a director of cinematography who never ceases to amaze me. He's lent his talent to many good movies over his legendary career (Apocalypse Now, The Conformist, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Reds), but I've never loved the look of one of his movies so much except perhaps in an earlier, much neglected Bertolucci movie called The Spider's Stratagem. Each shot could be a painting. The actors are also excellent here, especially the veterans Burt Lancaster (who plays Alfredo's grandfather, also named Alfredo) and Sterling Hayden, who plays Leo, the patriarch of the Dalco family. They're in the movie for about an hour, but their performances are amazing enough to leave an impression, especially Hayden's. As much as this movie is about fascism and communism, it's also about class differences and class clashes, and this is shown in the three Berlinghieri generations. Grandfather Alfredo and Leo have a relationship based on respect and co-dependence. His son Giovanni brings technology and consequently unemployment to his lands as well as the violent Attila to keep the workers in order, and also ends many of the ancestral rights the workers had. His despotic rule marks the beginning of the peasants' consciousness that change is necessary. Giovanni's brother, Ottavio, is his opposite, preferring to travel and enjoy life, much like his nephew. Finally Alfredo simply doesn't care, pursuing self-gratification and allowing Attila to gain power and impose a reign of terror in his lands, with the help of Alfredo's cousin, Regina (Laura Betti). Donald Sutherland has always had a gift for playing villains but he set a bar too high even for himself to surpass when he played Attila, the sadistic Black Shirt who crushes kittens to make philosophical points about communism, molests children and kills helpless old people. Fans of Sutherland who wish to see him at his darkest and most intimidating mustn't miss this film. DeNiro, Sanda, Betti and Depardieu are also very good, with Depardieu outshining DeNiro only because he has a more demanding and visible role. Sanda is also good, even if her role is to be basically annoying most of the time. Betti makes a great demonic pair with Sutherland. DeNiro, today the most famous of the actors who worked in this film, delivers one of his typically good performances, but he doesn't reinvent himself like in Taxi Driver or Raging Bull. This is Depardieu's film. Also worthy of note is Ennio Morricone's score, containing many of his most uplifting compositions. Bertolucci made this film to inflame hearts and rouse consciousnesses, to make viewers leave the cinemas anxious to change society and make the world a better, fairer place, so Morricone's music works perfectly with the images. And even if Bertolucci's goal ultimately failed, the movie is so well crafted its grandiose finale should leave viewers pretty upbeat and hopeful. No review of Novecento can do the movie justice. It's a work of art, it must be watched. Keiko's score 100%
    Keiko A Super Reviewer

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