4 August 2001 | ItalianGerry
DOWN THE ANCIENT STAIRS has Marcello Mastroianni playing the head doctor in an insane asylum of fascist Italy of the thirties. Director Bolognini probably intended the hospital to represent a microcosm of the Italy of the times. The doctor is working on the theory that schizophrenia is caused by a physical virus that can be isolated and treated. This controversial film examines the repressive mechanisms common to fascism and institutional psychiatry. The doctor is loved by three women and has simultaneous affairs with a nurse, a nymphomaniac, and the hospital director's wife. Although somewhat sensationalized, this film was made by a director of some renown, Mauro Bolognini, who gave us gems like BELL'ANTONIO (also with Mastroianni), LA GRANDE BOURGEOISE, METELLO, AGOSTINO, and LA VIACCIA.