Early & Silent Film

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Rotaie

Posted by keith1942 on December 18, 2010

Rotaie. (Wheels).

S. A. C. I. A. / Nero-film, Italy / Denmark, 1929. 

Director: Mario Camerini, also scenario.  Story, Corrado D’Erico.

35mm, Italian Intertitles with translation.

 

The girl, Käthe von Nagy – The Girl; Maurizio D’Ancora – The Boy [Giorgio]; Daniele Crespi – The Seducer, Jacques Mercier;  

The film was produced in both silent and sound versions, and there was also a titled version with a musical soundtrack. The Giornate del Cinema Muto screened the silent version with a live musical accompaniment.

 

The film has a splendid opening as a rear-view camera tracks behind a couple entering a hotel late at night. The camera [and audience] follows the couple as they almost wordlessly check in and go to a room. \We learn that family opposition blights their love and their actions imply death together. The chance passing of a train and its vibrations cause the glass with the fatal tablet to fall to the floor. The doomed spell is broken.

The couple now set off on an odyssey. Another chance event, a man dropping a wallet at the central railway station, provides the wherewithal for their train journey to the sea and the Riviera. Here is the film becomes fairly predictable as The Boy first wins and then loses at the Casino: he is then tempted to steal another’s winnings to settle his bills. Meanwhile a rich seducer targets The Girl. Chance, or more likely fate, once more intervenes, and the seducer refrains. Reconciled the couple spend the night on a park bench.

Once more penniless the young couple takes another train journey back to the city: this time among the workers and peasants rather than in a sleeping car. At the film’s end The Boy is working in a factory. The Girl meets him at the gate and her knitting suggests that a baby will turn them into a family. A montage of shots of trains, factory building, factory chimneys, turbines and workers accompany this ending.

After the film there a discussion about how far the film’s ending should be seen as an expression of the Fascist values dominant in 1920s Italy. The film’s ending does integrate the couple into the world of work: a central notion in Italian Fascism. It also sets up a nuclear family, another institution encouraged under fascism.

However, the notion of work as central to integration into society is a rather generalised idea. And the potential family appears a rather individualised one: there is no sign, for example, of the Fascist social institution, Dopolavoro. The central emphasis in Italian Fascism was on the role of conflict and importance of the dominance of the State. Two slogans of the Party were – “War is to Man as Motherhood is to Woman” and “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”. Neither of these aspects is overtly present in the film. [Marco Bellocchio’s portrait Vincere (2009) powerfully emphasises these aspects]. 

Rather I felt the film was an example of a melodrama which presents the integration of the main characters into the general value system. It is extremely well done and well worth seeing.

 

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