14 April 2004 | ch_otchy
A brilliant study of turmoil and human testing...
Directed by Lina Wertmüller in 1973, "Love & Anarchy" is an indisputable classic. Universally identifiable and immediately entertaining, Wertmüller carries her audience into the mind and times of Turin, a peasant in 1930s Italy. When one of his close friends and idols is killed by fascists, Turin becomes obsessed with anarchist ideals he hardly understands, and sets off to exact an awful vendetta--the assassination of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The plan gets off-track when Turin falls in love with Tripolina, a prostitute in the bordello where he lives in the days leading up to the assassination attempt. We soon learn that Tripolina returns his love, and the tragic stage is set. Knowing full well that the assassination attempt, successful or not, will surely mean his death, Turin is suddenly gripped by fear. When all he had at stake was a quiet life on the farm, he was glad to give it up for a chance at changing the quality of life for his peasant countrymen. But now, having tasted the happiness love can afford, can Turin really carry through with this suicidal act? Can he truly give up his life for a belief he once thought was worth dying?
"Love & Anarchy" is a brilliant study of turmoil and human testing in the face of insurmountable odds. It begs the question--is it better to bow and live, or stand up and die? How much can a people be crushed before someone makes a sacrifice for the betterment of society? Whose responsibility is it? And on a grander scale, is it better to live happily, contented by love or family, and leave the world untouched, or to attempt real change by sacrificing everything in exchange for it? "Love & Anarchy" poses all these questions, but it offers no easy answers.
Wertmüller's favorite actor, Giancarlo Giannini, plays the peasant boy, Turin, with beautiful humility. He wordlessly portrays infinite subtleties of emotion with body language and facial expression alone. Giannini has the face of a silent movie actor, and in fact was touted as a new Chaplin in the 1970s. Playing opposite him as the prostitute Salome is Mariangela Melato, who viewers may recognize from Wertmüller's "Swept Away." She, too, delivers a wonderful performance. The style and pacing of the film are excellent. Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno captures Rome in a gorgeous, yet unobtrusive manner.
In "Love & Anarchy," Wertmüller doesn't pull any punches. As par usual, she lets the politics of her movie decide the fate of its characters, and tragedy ensues. One must admire her for making an extraordinarily brave and beautiful film. She exhibits how powerful and effective a tragic story can truly be in exploring the more complex questions of life.