The Conformist (1970)

The Conformist (1970)



Critic Consensus: A commentary on fascism and beauty alike, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist is acclaimed for its sumptuous visuals and extravagant, artful cinematography.

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Movie Info

The conformist is 1930s Italian Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a coward who has spent his life accommodating others so that he can "belong." Marcello agrees to kill a political refugee, on orders from the Fascist government, even though the victim-to-be is his college mentor. The film is a character study of the kind of person who willingly "conforms" to the ideological fashions of his day. In this case, director Bernardo Bertolucci suggests that Marcello's desire to conform is rooted in his latent homosexuality. In addition to its strong storyline, the film is critically revered for the astonishing production design by Nedo Azzini, which, together with Vittorio Storaro's camerawork, recreates the atmosphere of Fascist Italy with some of the most complex visual compositions ever seen on film, filled with highly stylized uses of angles, shapes, and shadows. The Conformist was cut by five crucial minutes when first released in the US; those missing moments were restored in the 1994 reissue. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Paramount Pictures

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Jean-Louis Trintignant
as Marcello Clerici
Enzo Tarascio
as Professor Quadri
Dominique Sanda
as Anna Quadri
Pierre Clémenti
as Lino Semirama--the Chauffeur
Gastone Moschin
as Manganiello
as Marcello's mother
Giuseppe Addobbati
as Marcello's father
Yvonne Sanson
as Giulia's mother
Fosco Giachetti
as The Colonel
Benedetto Benedetti
as The Minister
Gio Vagni Luca
as Secretary
Alessandro Haber
as Cieco ubriaco
Pasquale Fortunato
as Marcello as a child
Marta Lado
as Marcello's Daughter
Pierangelo Givera
as Male Nurse
Carlo Gaddi
as Hired Killer No. 1
Franco Pellerani
as Hired Killer No. 2
Claudio Cappelli
as Hired Killer No. 3
Umberto Silvestri
as Hired Killer No. 4
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Critic Reviews for The Conformist

All Critics (50) | Top Critics (14)

The unsettling blend of images and ideas in this movie cannot satisfactorily be disentangled or decoded, and it's the very strangeness of Bertolucci's masterpiece that has made it so influential in cinema history.

Full Review… | August 28, 2014
Top Critic

Bertolucci's boldest and most expressive film ...

Full Review… | August 26, 2014
Village Voice
Top Critic

The Conformist is celebrated for cinematographer Vittorio Storaro's tumbling autumn leaves, but its emotional impact involves a tumbling soul.

Full Review… | December 15, 2010
Time Out
Top Critic

Ravishing to the eye but less than fully satisfying to the mind.

Full Review… | December 7, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The movie is pure magic as story, as drama, as photography, as conviction, as everything except its ideas.

Full Review… | September 7, 2006
Washington Post
Top Critic

Juggling past and present with the same bravura flourish as Welles in Citizen Kane, Bertolucci conjures a dazzling historical and personal perspective.

February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Conformist

A different kind of movie about fascism than we're used to in the 2000s--one that makes little use of the jackboots and black uniforms and waving banners that have become almost cartoony fetishizations--The Conformist is in many ways the simple story of a man who takes a job. It's subtle and understated and chilling, a human story in an inhuman time that unfolds slowly, almost like a detective novel. It's rich in every shot and impossible to look away from. An absolute must-see.

Daniel Perry
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Appreciate it more than I enjoyed watching it. Beautifully shot, incredibly insightful, often boring.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer


A fine movie, but dry and difficult to relate to. I can't imagine many people calling this a favorite. I have a great deal of respect for its craftsmanship, above all, most notably because the filming is beyond gorgeous. Vittorio Storaro, cinematographer extraordinaire and thrice-over Oscar winner, creates a film that looks insular and harsh even when the environment itself is enticing. A jovial dance scene turns into a cruel, claustrophobic show of mockery for our main character; a beautiful snow-covered forest becomes a scene of carnage and despair. The film is bleak and mundane, probably in keeping with its Fascist parallels, which strengthens the thematic link to its detached protagonist Marcello. He's unusual for his primary goal, which is to assimilate into the rest of Italian society and be completely forgotten. Along the way he somehow determines that the best way to do this is to become a low-grade Mussolini hitman, subsequently tasked with putting together a hit on his old college professor. Marcello becomes stranger still when you take his back story into consideration - he was molested as a child, a likely cause of his burning desire to be normal, and creating an unusual sexual ambiguity that adds weight to the ending. His loyal, oblivious wife was also taken advantage of by a much older man, and it's at this point you realize that the fact that they're both card-carrying Fascists is no coincidence. The notion of wanting to find your identity by shedding it completely is somewhat unnerving, and clearly the film's strength, because what still stands as a strong theme now must have been revolutionary in 1970. It's a little easy to kick the dead Fascist horse forty years after the fact, but so be it.

Drew Smith
Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

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