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  • A Marxist aristocrat, Count Don Luchino Visconti Di Morone was widely praised for both the realism and vaguely politicized tone of his early films, and the operatic sumptuousness of his later historical costume dramas... Throughout his career, however, style dominated content; all too often, the result was camp, decorative melodrama disguised as solemn, socially significant art...

    "La Terra Trema," an epic account of the hardship suffered by Sicilian fishermen, was even closer to Neo-realism, shot on location with a cast of nonprofessional actors living their lives on screen... Its somewhat simplistic Marxist message, that the peasants' real enemy was not Nature but exploitive businessmen, was in fact less indicative of Visconti's future and its use of a disintegrating family to mirror the social climate of Italy as a whole...

    The conflicts, misery, poverty, joy, and anger in a fishing village are shown in a panoramic study of man and earth...

    'The Earth will Tremble' is not political nor intends to teach... The film reveals... it doesn't judge...

    The cinematography is outstanding, particularly the scenes with the fishermen at sea...
  • In 1947, in Sicily near Catania, the fishermen in Aci Trezza have been exploited by generations by the local middlemen. The young 'Ntoni Valastro rebels against the economical situation of his poor family and convinces the Valastro to mortgage their simple house in the Fidania Bank in Catania to buy a fish boat of their own and never work again for the wholesalers. In a stormy day, he decides to fish due to the necessity of repaying the debt to the bank; however, the storm destroys his boat and the dream of his family. Without any support and job, 'Ntoni sees the disintegration of his outcast family.

    "La Terra Trema: Episodio del Mare" is a heartbreaking, bitter and cruel story of a family of fishermen that decides to change their poor economical situation facing the powerful exploiters. The Marxist "Red Count" Luchino Visconti directs and narrates this little masterpiece of the Italian Neo-Realism casting non-professional actors and actresses, actually fishermen and inhabitants of Aci Trezza. The abusive treatment of the greedy and idle wholesalers gives an idea of how workers were exploited in this period of history and the reason for the ideological fight of classes between Communism and Capitalism. In Brazil, this film was released on DVD by Versátil Distributor. My vote is nine.

    Title (Brazil): "A Terra Treme" ("The Earth Shakes")
  • Luchino Visconti's epic on a family living in the Sicilian fishing village of Trezza, the Valastros, is a compelling story, told with sincerity and skill, and for the outsider viewing into their world it's at the least interesting and at its most heart-felt is rather affecting. Narrators Visconti and Antonio Pietrangeli themselves are outsiders to the world of dirt-poor fishermen who work their entire lives to earn pittance for the wealthy wholesalers (it's based on a novel, I Malavoglia- translated as Ill Will- by Giovanni Verga).

    Their narration can hint the audience member on little details that wouldn't be known from the characters, however sometimes their voice-over, in such a documentary style (before this Visconti was among a group of directors for a documentary during world war 2 that is not listed on this site but it mentioned in the documentary My Voyage to Italy) can be a little deterring as they mention certain emotions the characters are feeling that we as the audience can determine right in the eyes.

    The story tells of the Valastros, in particular 'Ntoni, an idealist who returns from fighting in the war with a much different view of the environment around him than what his elders would want to believe. Unlike his grandfather, who has worked for the wholesalers and not earned and saved a cent more or less than his children, he wants change in the way things are done, and soon gets enough money to build his own boat and to sell his own fish.

    Things look optimistic, until nature intervenes in destroying the boat, leaving 'Ntoni without a job, the wholesalers laughing at him mercilessly and little by little loosing any respect he had in the village. His other family members also get time on the screen- two sisters who want to meet a man to marry, and how one is at the will of God and the other is at the will of the Don of the village, Don Salvatore; also a brother, who after losing his job becomes a smuggler bringing in cigarettes. Their stories, in a pacing that may have some wondering when it will end and some wondering if it can go on longer, lead up to a heartbreaking climax for each of them.

    I learned shortly after viewing La Terra Trema that Luchino Visconti (I suppose it shouldn't have been much of a surprise considering the state Italy was in before, during, and after the war) was a lifelong member of the Communist party despite being raised in a wealthy environment in Northern Italy. While I had a feeling there was something about the way Visconti depicted the Volostros and the nature of the people and the village that seemed "for the working man", but I didn't really feel that the political intonations were a crutch to the overall execution of the film. Since one of the pin-points of neo-realism is to tell things as simply as they unfold in real life, no matter how downtrodden it can get, the focus of the fishermen versus the wholesalers is made more as a reflection of basic good versus evil, and it can appeal to those who don't want a strict tale of classes.

    Its humanity is what shines through, and that is what should appeal to connoisseurs of neo-realism and Italian filmmaking; while I can't quite recommend it as much as The Bicycle Thief or Open City, I can recommend it as the first film people should see if they want to know and understand the work of Visconti, his operatic intonations with his players a graceful counterpart to his documentary techniques.
  • Although it was supposed to be a documentary, Visconti put in a slight story line to achieve what a documentary would have done, AND MORE. --He used no professional actors, just native Sicilian fishermen, and other villagers, to play all parts. -- The film uses no artificial lighting, no sound enhancement, sound-effects, or dubbing. -- It was filmed on location in, and around, the crumbling homes of the poor villagers, and it was recorded in the Sicilian dialect (rather than proper Italian), and although it has a documentary "look", Visconti shows the exploitation of the poor by the capitalist middlemen so much more effectively than any documentary could have done.

    -- Also, while not the first neo-realist film of that post-war Italian genre, this was the first film to be described by the term: "neo-realist". --A brilliant film on all counts. I rated it "10".
  • I saw this movie Friday night on TCM. I'd never heard of it, but I'm a neorealismo fan, so I watched. I'm sorry I didn't tape it, what an epic! Like "The bicycle thief," this movie uses real people, and almost feels like a documentary at times. I agree that the sentiments are rather marxist, but I have to admit that if I lived as these people do, I might be drawn to communism, too. There are some subtle (or maybe not so subtle) references to the politics of the times, wall posters about Mussolini and the hammer and sickle images painted on the walls. Oddly, this movie reminded me somewhat of "Man of Aran," the images are that stark, life is that bleak. The film is beautifully shot, and the story is wrenching. Watch it if you get the opportunity. It memorializes a way of life that is gone, and I'll bet there's not a single person who misses it.
  • It's hard to believe that I am the first person to comment on this masterpiece at this website. One reason could be that it's not that easy to see. Thank God for Turner Classic Movies, which is where I finally saw it. I'm happy to see that there's a DVD available.

    This is one of those amazing films that uses only non-professionals and in which they perform as well, if not better, than any professional could. The actors are the inhabitants of a small Sicilian fishing village. The film is cliche-ridden (the Marxist variety) and at times predictable. I didn't care about any of this. The film is a true epic about a few people trying to break out of their rut of exploitation and the wretchedness of their everyday living, and failing. The film thus achieves the status of true tragedy. This one shouldn't be missed.
  • Among the great Italian directors, no one is a more thorough neorealist than Luchino Visconti. To a large part he is honoured for having invented the genre, but there were some predecessors, while this film was the first to downright be designated as "neorealism", and it couldn't be more so. Visconti was a perfectionist and above all absolutely perfect in his consistent realism. Every detail had to be true, and it is, especially in this film, where there are no professional actors but only amateurs speaking their local dialect, a Sicilian language that no mainland Italians could understand - many of the best neorealistic Italian films were made with only amateurs. To make the context of the film clearer, Visconti himself comments the action in intelligible Italian and his gentle voice, while you don't really need to understand everything nor even any commentary. The epic is self-evident: one young fisherman rebels against his almost feudal servituded in dependence on those who buy the fish they work hard for at sea, and launches his own boat, for which he has to pay dearly, mortgaging the house of the family. He is unlucky, a storm wrecks his boat, he loses his and his family's livelihood, and one brother is seduced into illegal smuggling business by Americans - you must suspect he gets entangled in the mob. The bank has to take over the house, and the family is totally ruined without anything left. Yet 'Ntonis starts again, like the force of nature itself, with nothing to hinder the eternal fact that life always goes on. Visconti is above all a great stylist in film, perhaps the greatest of Italy, and although his films can be felt as rather depressive sometimes, they are always profoundly human. This great sense of human nature and humanism is especially strong in this film, where everything goes against them, there is nothing but adversity in life for them here, and the brutal establishment just laughs at them in scorn, while 'Ntonis expresses everything, not even answering any more, with his deep unfathomable eyes.
  • afatsom827 February 2013
    9/10
    -
    1. This movie is likely to excruciate those who are not used to reading fast, because the images are too great to be sacrificed for subtitles. Even most of the Italian-speaking people have a hard time understanding this Sicilian accent.

    2. The other reason why La terra trema is found boring by many is that reality matters much more than drama to the neorealist director Luchino Visconti. So the audience shouldn't be passive while seeing some real lives going on, that is the only way to feel engaged.

    3. The most notable advantage of the movie comes to attention right here. It is touching without bending over backwards for that purpose. You can feel connected to it and at the same time wonder where all that connection comes from. (The movie does not try hard to make you feel this way) It shakes your deepest emotions simply because all it has to do with is the reality of a human society, and also with the real nature for that matter.

    4.Another important point here is Visconti doesn't let the fact that he believes in Socialism affect the reality of what he is portraying. The hammer and sickle on the wall in no way seems anything other than part of a neutral report. He reminds us of those journalists who succeed in providing us with an unbiased report regarding a massively resented dictator when we are pretty sure the journalist hates the dictator as much as we do.

    5. All in all this is a great picture , of course it requires active audience who know what they want to get from the almost sheer reality pictured.
  • This moving slice of life has several acts and moves like an opera, but the scenes are "neo-realistic" in the best sense.

    All of Visconti's actors are from the Sicilian fishing village, but they were not acting--just portraying their lives. You care about these real people!

    Family is everything--and it survives despite the buffeting by the storms, the stranglehold of the oligarchical wholesalers, and shortsightedness of the townspeople. We see the exploitation of the fishermen vividly and how most accept it as "God's will."

    It also brings to mind the old joke: What is the difference between capitalism and communism? Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man, and communism is just the reverse.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Luchino Visconti shot this remarkable neorealist movie with amateur actors, who played their role sublimely. He tells a brutal story of a naked struggle for survival of a family in a village of fishermen in Sicily. The fishermen are confronted with a buyer's monopoly of a bunch of wholesalers, who give them a minimum price for their catches ('the poor always pay'). One fisherman tries to break the monopoly by creating his own business. But, therefore he has to mortgage the ancestral house.

    Luchino Visconti's movie is a Malthusian story: only the prosperous can love and marry. His movie is also a Marxist story. It sets the wholesalers (the capitalists) against the fishermen. When the wholesalers pool their money and buy new boats, the fishermen's only choice is to sell their labor force. Now, they don't even own the fish they have caught. The movie has a main message: only solidarity among the laborers can be a basis for a society of free associates.

    Luchino Visconti was the assistant director during the shooting of the movie 'Toni' in which Jean Renoir used amateur actors. 'Toni' paints also the fate of (Spanish) journeymen in France. But, there is an essential difference between Jean Renoir's and Luchino Visconti's movie: Toni doesn't transcend the personal level of his characters (their love lives), while in 'La Terra Trema' the lives of the protagonists are embedded in a real general socio-economic environment.

    Luchino Visconti shot a most memorable social drama, maintaining throughout the movie a most impressive emotional and typically local atmosphere. A must see.
  • Luchino Visconti was a great Italian master director who along with Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, is regarded as one of the pioneers of Italian Neorealism. 'Ossessione' was Visconti's first film and in some quarters it is hailed as the first neo-realist film ever made. Whether 'Ossessione' should be considered a neo-realist film or not is debatable, but if ever a film epitomised the Italian neo- realist experience, in my mind it is 'La Terra Trema'(along with a few others). It tells the story of the exploitation of the working-class fishermen in Aci Trezza by focusing on one particular family, the Valastros.

    There are some films where the philosophies and sensibilities of the filmmaker can be skewed to the left or maybe the right. But in the case of 'La Terra Trema', saying that Visconti's stance on the issue of the condition and the treatment of the fishermen in Aci Trezza is skewed to the left is a huge understatement. Visconti addresses the issue by showcasing a ruthlessly damning indictment of the wholesalers and the capitalist social structure as a whole and its effect on the poor and the helpless. Visconti authentically depicts the hard and brutal life led by the working-class families who live under pressure to earn a living. They have to get up each day, they men and women have to embark on a cyclical routine of mundane activities with the hope of earning the meager amount which will earn them their food for the next day. We see the wholesalers exploit the fishermen by offering them low prices for the fish that they catch putting their lives on the line. The Valastros try to break open from this never-ending cycle of oppression and inadequacy by deciding to deviate from the market structure and work independently. But Visconti shows that the cruel and expensive nature of their work coupled with the all encompassing market structure will inevitably render all ambitious attempts of independence futile in the long run.

    The film starts in a very documentary-like manner. We start at the stroke of dawn with bells ringing in the distance. Hordes of fishermen are seen flocking towards beaches. But we don't see faces. We see these figures in the darkness of dawn walking around. One of the primary characters in the film, Mara then is seen opening the door of the Valastros' house and that in a thematic sense introduces us to the characters that enrich this world. This gets juxtaposed beautifully with the shot that ends the film where the Valastros again become a part of the faceless masses.

    Visconti before starting to make films on his own, used to work as an assistant to the great French auteur Jean Renoir and I saw Renoir's influence all over 'La Terra Trema'. The slick camera movement to reveal characters who were off screen, the humanism and the imagery is heavily inspired by Renoir. Visconti uses the trademark Renoir frame within a frame composition extensively throughout the film which almost gives a 3-d like feel to the images. There are so many beautiful images in the film that will stay with me. But my favourite image is the shot of the three women standing on the rocks and looking out at the sea. It is haunting, evocative and gorgeous. The grand and expansive photography involved in capturing the sea and beaches gets beautifully juxtaposed by the claustrophobic nature of the shots inside the Valastros' home.

    The fact that Visconti used the real people of Aci Trezza in the film instead of professional actors actually lends a bit of authenticity. Yes Visconti uses visual style and flair, but he never does it by compromising the human element of the film. Yes with amateurs at the helm, the acting is a bit stiff at times, but considering what Visconti is going for, the intentions are noble and the viewer can easily look past it.

    My only problem with the film which prevents me from giving the film a perfect 10 involves a scene that comes close to the end of the film where the wholesalers start mocking Antonio. This is a scene where the tone gets a little too over-the-top and goofy which didn't fit with the realism of the rest of the film. I think, a little subtlety and sarcasm would have worked better. The relentless laughter could have been replaced by snide sarcastic remarks.

    'La Terra Trema' is a beautiful depiction of humanity in its most raw, helpless state. Visconti attacks the capitalist system by showcasing its harsh effects on the poor. The film isn't a very hopeful one, but considering the time during the which it was made, the pessimism is warranted. The plight of Valastros family and Antonio in particular reminded me of the story of Icarus. In their quest for freedom from oppression, they ended up flying a little too close to the sun.
  • The first time I had encountered the director Luchino Visconti was when I was more and more into the Italian Neorealism, the movement that can probably be considered one of the most genuine waves in European cinema. Having seen Visconti's most popular movies, including IL GATTOPARDO, L'OSSESSIONE, LA CADUTA DEGLI DEI or MORTE A VENEZIA as well as his earlier productions, I started to understand his conception of art in movie and it gradually appealed to me more. However, I realized that Visconti was the aristocrat who became a member of the Communist party representing the left wing of Italian artists. Even this film made way for the Italian socialists, which, for me, is not a very privileged information. But that is not the gist of my analysis. The most important aspect for me is the artistic side of the whole work, something in terms of which we evaluate LA TERRA TREMA nowadays.

    LA TERRA TREMA, though not a top notch Neorealist work, is a film that resembles almost all the principles of Neorealism retained by the great directors: Rossellini, DeSica, Pasolini. At the same time, all of these aspects are still much appreciated and searched by many today's authors.

    First, the cast consist of all non-professionals: simple fishermen of Sicily where, naturally, everyone has the role he/she knows how to perform in real life. And how they do in the movie: perfectly, the whole story is very authentic thanks to them. Sometimes, the performances are so well managed that you, as an experienced 21st century viewer, do not feel it's all acting. Moreover, they feel comfortable in the locations they know: so magical places of the Sicilian coast.

    Second, the movie refers to the very realistic situations that were obvious in the Italy of that time. It was 1948 and the country was suffering the horrific consequences of WWII and the regime of "Il Duce" Mussolini. The tragic story of the Valastro family is something many people could empathize with at the time and, moreover, can still empathize nowadays. Ntonio, though formerly respected member of the community (Sicilian village of Acci Trezza) starts to lose everything. There comes a day when he has no job, is taken advantage of any time being no more respected. His brother Cola is on the verge of despair leaving the family to find a better future. Two sisters experience hardship as young women. The grandpa gets ill. The whole family is on the verge of total tragedy when they are forced to leave the house, their only property. The monotonous life gets even worse, turns into the life of poverty, helplessness and suffering. Is there a way to live a normal life in such circumstances?

    Third, the whole movie is a profound development of characters within these very personal stories. Ntonio is an idealist who tells his brother that his love to his hometown has kept him there and will keep him till his death ("We were born here and we will die here"). At the same time, he is easily brought to despair (starts to spend the nights drinking in taverns). Cola is a youngster who respects his family but desires a better life. I'll never forget the scene he says "Farewell" to the picture of his family when sorrow is combined with fear and helplessness with desire. Mara is a very religious young woman who accepts sorrows and hardship claiming this all is the Will of God. The other sister, Lucia, is a normal girl, like every other; yet the tragic situation leads her to the cold acceptance of "male use." The little shining necklace seems to steal her heart.

    Similarly to the top Neorealist movies, like GERMANIA ANNO ZERO or ROMA CITTA APERTA, LA TERRA TREMA focuses on individuals in the society, in the community at hard times. On the one hand, there are so many praying women at Valastro's house when the grandfather is being taken to Catania, to hospital; on the other hand, the Valastro family hear very bitter words "God has punished you for your pride!" from the same people. It is not the ostentation but solidarity of people that leads to better future, better life; it is the lack of solidarity that leads to hell on earth. That is beautifully executed in Ntonio's conversation with a simple girl on the shore at his past boat: "I'd gladly help you"... Politically and historically speaking, that was the point which gave way to socialist ideas.

    But so far, I have not touched the most significant aspect why the film is so much worth seeing. Although it is pretty long, it is black and white, it has the narrator that may distract some of the modern viewers, LA TERRA TREMA is "like a loaf of bread to the poor", a wonderful gift for today's viewers who may see what a film may be like, how many messages it can convey, not from the political perspective only but from a simple empathy with humanity, which was most precious thing about Neorealism calling for change. Although these times are gone forever and some islands of poverty turned into isles of prosperity, this change is still so desirable...

    See this! You'll not regret and don't be discouraged by its length and documentary like style. It's worth your search! By the way, one of the assistant directors of the movie was Maestro Franco Zeffirelli
  • Luchino Visconti's vivid portrayal of the grinding poverty endured by Sicilian fishermen under the oppressive rule of grasping wholesalers is a relentlessly grim saga that casts an unflattering light on the crowd's blind propensity to condemn those who strive to rise above their lot in life. Depressing stuff, but hugely compelling in spite of its lengthy running time.
  • planktonrules6 October 2005
    2/10
    dull
    There are many Neo-realist Italian films of the 40s and 50s that I really enjoy, so I really looked forward to watching this film. Unfortunately, it was so dull and kept going on and on and on. It was less a film and more a documentary with a movie spliced into it. The story is about some poorer than dirt fishermen and their families and their desire to get out from under crippling poverty. At first you find yourself rooting for them, but after a while their misery became less and less important to me,...I just became bored and wanted the story to end. This film, unlike great Neo-realistic films like Umberto D. or General Della Rovere, just wasn't involving. At the time it was made, the communists were making substantial in-roads in Italy and so the movie was quite timely then with its anti-capitalism message. But, now the acting doesn't seem all that great (even for this style film) and it just seems terribly dated.
  • We should all know this kind of story by now: underdog thinks he can do better, takes a risk, unplanned failure ruins it all, life goes on. Along the way, others heckle his efforts, and congratulate themselves when it doesn't work out.

    La Terra Trema isn't quite that simple ... but it isn't really anything more either. Plenty of things are not adequately explained/explored. Does the sister have some unhappy secret? Does the brother join the mafia? Can the family correctly salt anchovies? Why don't they repair their boat? How much time passes between major events? We'll never know, because this movie isn't really interested in anything besides its socio-political message; a boat lost at sea might be overnight or a month. But please, enjoy every second of getting dressed in the morning.

    The only thing that matters in films like these is that Unhappy Poor People tried to Do Something, but still end up being Unhappy Poor People (never mind why). For a film of this type, this has nicer visuals than most, while running a lot longer due to its interminable pacing. Possibly this was less an issue on the big screen?
  • Vartiainen29 January 2012
    There are some parts in this film that work and some that do not. The overall story is not bad, following one family's struggle to break away from the norm and to become independent entrepreneurs. Plus, for being nonprofessional first timers, the actors are surprisingly decent, managing to portray the anguish and feelings of betrayal and suffering that their characters are going through.

    Unfortunately the film isn't overly strong on the technical side. The film suffers from the classic pitfall of "show, don't tell", because most of the important scenes are narrated over and explained way too much in detail. In addition, the film just drags. I get that some film are supposed to be kind of slow, and in this case it would even be justified as the film tries to portray a fairly long stretch of time, but it doesn't remove the fact that some scenes just seem to go on forever. At some points I was even left pondering whether the film had just frozen altogether. Plus the sound design is terrible. Most of the background noise was either cacophonic, overly loud, unintelligible or all three at the same time.

    Still, it's not a bad film. You can see that the director had great passion for his subject and, as I said, the actors are surprisingly talented, which manages to save the movie from being unwatchable. So, in the end, it's average.
  • I tried to imagine this film in color, it is highly sensitive, a very high point in Italian neorealism. A masterpiece of cinematographic narrative.

    I recommend seeing it for its high content.

    About the movie, I can say that it comes from the young moment of cinema, when everything was innocence and that pleases me. I am not a filmmaker but this piece is worth keeping very close to our heart of combative soul, thanks Visconti and to those who interpreted such a magnificent piece.
  • kloomnik7 February 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    I am a great enthusiast of Italian neorealismo and indeed of most things Italian. Yet, I find the accolades "triumph" and "masterpiece" to be greatly overstated when applied to La terra trema.

    This scripted documentary is engaging and moving: We watch real people in real places, and we care deeply about the protagonists. Yet, the film has considerable flaws, and in the end, I suggest it is "significant" and "important", but hardly a "masterpiece" or even "great".

    First, Visconti never manages to get from his local actors the same level of natural screen presence that one finds in true masterpieces such Ladri di biciclette or Umberto D. Much of the acting comes across as… well… amateurish, with actors reciting and declaiming, acting-out anger by throwing their hats to the ground and waving their fists, and in general delivering lines that are too punchy to be authentic (regardless of Visconti's well-known efforts to involve the actors in the development of the dialogue and his decision to stick entirely to the local dialect, except for the narration).

    More importantly, the film's message is heavy-handed to the point of becoming tiresome. And if the story and images are not sufficient in making you feel the pain, the narration is endlessly there to remind you of the misfortune of the protagonists. Visconti keeps hammering and hammering the suffering, until the opposite effect is achieved: the viewer becomes fatigued.

    The narration is rife with communist propaganda (the hammer and sickle are visible on the sides of buildings). It reprimands Toni's neighbors for not joining his revolt, and announces to the audience something to the effect that in the future they must act unitedly if they are to alter their future!

    Other than the Valascos and the bricklayer who is in love with Toni's sister, every character in the whole of Aci Trezza is portrayed negatively. The wholesalers are cartoonishly evil, Toni's girlfriend disappears when things turn for the worse, his neighbors are mocking him, pleased at his misfortunes; even the fisherman who risked his life to go search for him at sea somehow gets no credit when he brings him back --- as if Visconti is reluctant like to admit that one of his characters acted nobly.

    The film drags this way for 160 minutes where 120 would have been quite sufficient. There are numerous points where one thinks "this would be a nice place to wrap it up", but Visconti has more…

    In the end, I greatly prefer the humanist agenda delivered more delicately and subtly by Visconti's contemporaries like Chaplin or De Sica.
  • Too much of the off-camera narration as if we were watching a puppet show. There are better examples in the neorealist field because structurally Visconti makes it half fictional story and half documentary. Flaherty did a much better, more eloquent job on a similar (desperately poor fishermen folk) theme without any words used in MAN OF ARAN. The only thing I really liked about this film is the Sicilian dialect which does not contain any decipherable Italian words. Like Central and Southern Spain the Arabic influence here was very powerful and the insular culture fought a hard battle to keep its own identity (not Italian and not Arabic). Not a very great film from a director who is very highly regarded but for me is not in the league with the best of Italian filmmakers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The approach used in the story of this film is realism, which means that you get what you see. It depicts the life of the self-employed fishermen (actually families) in Sicily, somewhere in the first part of the twentieth Century. Life passes by in the old humdrum way, and becomes interesting only because Antonio, one of the fishermen, can no longer bear the exploitation by the fish merchants. Frankly, the viewer is not really convinced about the greediness of the merchants, because they look quite poor themselves. Anyway, Antonio decides to henceforth be his own merchant, and cash the profit. Of course some capital is required in order to pay for the fish processing and storage, and therefore Antonio takes a mortgage on his house. It soon turns out, that his business plan is rather risky, and his debt forces him to go fishing even in stormy weather. This results in being literally shipwrecked, and thereby losing his boat, his source of income. Although Antonio still has his warehouse full of fish, for some reason he can only sell these to the local merchants, who of course are keen to liquidate their former competitor. Antonio loses his house and lands in the deepest poverty. The merit of the film is probably the vivid representation of the village life in a fishermen's' community. Being a Dutchman the resemblance with the screen versions of Herman Heijermans' play "Op hoop van zegen" strikes me. There the fishermen are employed and sent out to the treacherous North Sea in the faulty brig of the owner. "De vis wordt duur betaald -- The fish is paid dearly", namely with the lives of the fishermen. Rumours circulate in the village that the owner had bribed the insurance inspector in order to approve of the brig. "La terra trema" was supported financially by the Italian communist party, and probably should hint at the class war between the fishermen and the merchants. Heyermans had the same aim, and succeeded, in particular due to the portrayal of the apathetic submission of the fishermen. Viewing "La terra trema" did not give me the same sympathy for the Sicilian fishermen. In fact Antonio himself seems to ruin his little enterprise, and after his failure falls into self-pity and wretched behavior's, as does his family. The viewer gets the impression that the merchants are indeed the more capable persons. I doubt that the PCI was very content with the result. On the other hand the choice of realism fits in neatly with the communist ideology.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of Visconti's early neo-realist classics, La Terra Trema was shot on location in the eastern Sicilian town of Aci Trezza completely with non-professional actors.

    The focus is on a family of fishermen headed by elder son Antonio (aka "'Ntoni") Valastro who gets it in his head to challenge the establishment and strike out on his own in the fishing business.

    The wholesalers exploit the poor workers by offering them paltry wages. He's arrested early on for participating in a violent protest but released once his bosses realize he's needed as a skilled worker.

    'Ntoni takes out a mortgage on his house and is supported by the rest of the family including an elderly grandfather, aging mother, Cola, a brother who is only a little younger than him, sisters Lucia and Mara and a few younger children.

    By obtaining a mortgage, 'Ntoni hopes to use the capital to bypass the wholesalers and distribute the product himself (along with his family).

    It all falls apart when their boat is ruined in a storm. The rest of the film chronicles the disintegration of the family.

    Cola takes off to parts unknown in the big city, the grandfather passes away, the Valastro home is repossessed by the bank, Lucia's reputation is ruined when she takes up with the village police chief, Mara gives up on her plans to marry, 'Ntoni's girl Nedda leaves him, and he takes to drink.

    It's all very hard to watch and events in the second half of the film certainly could have been cut to move things along much more quickly. Eventually 'Ntoni must eat crow and reapply for a job with the bosses who give him back his job but relentlessly mock him.

    Perhaps the hardest thing to watch is where the family ends up-in a shell of a house in a decaying neighborhood. If you ever wanted to know what poverty is all about, watch this film.

    It's also dispiriting to view the indifference of the townspeople when 'Ntoni attempts to convince them to strike out on their own and challenge the existing order.

    Are there no good people in this town from hell or is everybody just out to make a buck? As an inveterate Communist, Visconti was devoted to exposing the base underside of the capitalist system. Obviously, there's some truth to his presentation here but I'm not sure I buy the idea that there are no good people around to help our beleaguered protagonist.

    On the other hand, maybe things were as bad as depicted in the film. After all, the action takes place only two years after the end of World War II.

    Despite the use of non-professional actors, I found the acting to be realistic and convincing. La Terra Trema has some great cinematography and despite the downbeat denouement, I would describe it as tragically gripping.
  • ashrich_138 March 2006
    In Luchino Visconti's La Terra Trema, long takes are frequently used rather than montage. It is almost entirely composed of one-shot sequences, thus clearly showing the concern to cover the entire action in interminable deep-focus panning shots. Instead of cutting the sequence into fragments of shots by montage, Visconti made use of camera panning in shifting of focus between characters. This was exemplified in scenes of conversation and when another character enters or exits the dimensions of the shot.

    The long takes used in this film also added to the extraction of emotions from the actors, realizing that almost all of the actors are neophytes (some of them are real-life Sicilian fishermen, guards, and villagers). Long takes are very helpful to actors since in montage, the acting should be filmed as many times as the technique requires. Also, parts of an actors performance are sometimes cut in order to make way to the technique which will be used. In this manner, the momentum of the performance, as well as the realism it may suggest, is being ruled out.

    The primary reason for this is that the film was supposed to be Visconti's documentary on the life and industry of poor, Sicilian villagers who are usually discriminated by wealthy businessmen. And as the documentary-style is maintained, the existence of long shots will obviously come into place. No montage is needed because the objective is just to film what really takes place. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • kayasin23 January 2004
    This movie is really an example of an specific type and for the ones who are interested in the developments or the history of the cinema ought to watch this movie carefully. But more than a watching a documentary this film gives to taste of an art, the long and useless scenes make the audience not follow the context rather than following it with an eye of criticism or watching it really going in the movie. The film is used as a tool of an ideology so the point in the making of this film is not the need of expressing yourself but making the others to accept your view. On the other hand, the shots which clearly pictures the crowds and really gives the taste of sensing the communities make the film a quality one.