Before the Revolution (Prima della rivoluzione)

Before the Revolution

Those who have not lived the years… cannot understand the sweetness of life.

Bernardo Bertolucci, I envy you. At 22 years of age, you made Before the Revolution, and thus accomplished more in the world of film than I did by that age. Way to make me feel inadequate. Now, that doesn’t mean I found this to be a great film, because I didn’t; well, in ways I did, but those same ways were taken from other films that came before this, so I can’t properly credit Before the Revolution with them. The story was rather hard to discern; from what I got, the main character Fabrizio, from a well off family, begins an affair with his aunt, Gina, in the face of a coming revolution ready to sweep the lands. That was about as much as I got, mostly because the film was so obfuscating, but also because I found myself at a loss in my attempts to care about the characters or what was going on; the film did very little to endear itself to me, and that coupled with the nagging feeling that this film was a stone’s throw or two away from being a ripoff meant that this one was likely going to be a tough sell.

Right from the opening seconds, I felt the influence of the French New Wave on this film. The skipping around; the saturated cinematography, even the style of storytelling all seemed like it was lifted directly from a French art film, as if this were a direct adaptation or remake instead of an original film. The camerawork was, for lack of a better word, claustrophobic; the camera, for most of the time, was right in the actors’ faces, excluding what was around them from the frame, and this made it especially difficult to watch when the actors were moving, which made the zoomed-in camera very jittery and all over the place. The script for this was one of the most opaque I’ve ever encountered in a film; aside from the dropping of some names in the beginning, I largely felt I was listening to a brick wall talk to me as the film’s narration and dialogue went on – that’s how much I got out of the spoken words in this one. Also, the soundtrack (or score, or whichever this might be considered as) was… very odd. Each song seemed to be randomly placed in the film, and often when I could start to get an inkling of immersion, the start of the music would take me right back out of the film again. That might be the best way for me to describe this film; a bunch of blunt and solid elements (ones that look vaguely familiar) stapled and welded together, so that you have a complete and whole finished product, but one that isn’t mixed or blended together at all.

And oh yeah, the freaking overdubbing. Yet again it rears its ugly head at me, taunting me, shouting at me; “Hey, you want to be engrossed and immersed in this film? Well, too bad! I ain’t gonna let you!” I have a feeling we have many more bouts to be had during my quest, and I am looking forward to none of them.

Considering his age when he made this, this is clearly one of Bertolucci’s early works, and it unfortunately shows; none of the cohesiveness of an experienced director or storyteller is present here. Instead, we get a hodgepodge of film elements, all wrapped around an Italian story, with no care as to how they should interlock with each other. The Book calls Bertolucci’s accomplishment with this film “miraculous”, but really, I can see how he was able to get this done at the age he did it; I’ve seen plenty of short films and other examples of early works of a filmmaker, famous or not, that are much like this one is. It is indeed a feat that Bertolucci was able to head this film at 22, but it really isn’t an impressive one. I’m not really sure what else to say about this one, because most of what it has to say is lifted from other films, so it has no real voice of its own. If you’re looking for more Bertolucci to be had, you might be inclined to give this a try, but only if you’ve burned through all his other, later, better works first.

Arbitrary Rating: 6/10

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