klassieker: Il Conformista (1970)










Il Conformista: de roman (1951) film (1970)
 
Hoofdpersoon Marcello is een rijke intellectueel die twijfelt over zijn sexuele geaardheid en zijn gevoelsleven in het algemeen.
De roman van Moravia (1951) geeft een preciese omschrijving van zijn gedachtenwereld en vertelt zijn verhaal in chronologische volgorde. In de film van Bertolucci (1970) is gekozen voor een flash-back structuur.
 
In zijn jeugd heeft Marcello een traumatische ervaring gehad. Het is een smet op zijn leven die hij wil uitwissen, als een noodlottige verplichting. Hij is een man van kalme beredenering, maar ook een man van plotseling opvlammende passie en zelfvernietigingsdrang en vervreemding. Hij heeft een afkeer van geestelijk verval, verderf en onzuiverheid, maar het fascineert hem ook. Hij wil orde, rust en ingetogenheid. Zijn grondhouding is echter een passieve vorm van nihilisme en een overtuiging dat geluk onbereikbaar is voor hem. Hij denkt dat het noodlot zijn levensbestemming bepaalt.
 
Hij wil normaal lijken, zich welbewust conformeren aan een burgerlijk leven in Italië in de jaren dertig, dit betekent een gezin stichten en zich aanpassen aan de uiterlijke regels van de rooms-katholieke kerk en de fascistische overheid.
De bureacratie van het fascisme is gericht op het verdelen en verdoezelen van verantwoordelijkheid. Hij is een toeschouwer die de mechanismen van macht en terreur weliswaar doorgrondt, maar zich hier niet tegen verzet. Hij volgt de dienstaanwijzingen zonder tegenspraak en wordt medeplichtig aan moord op zijn vroegere professor. Hij beseft dat hij in een ontwrichte wereld leeft, en hij is zich bewust van de omkering van waarden om hem heen: de willekeur van het onderscheid tussen onrechtvaardig en rechtvaardig, verraad en heldendaad, dood en leven. Hij is wellicht op zoek naar zingeving, een waardige invulling van een zelfgekozen eenzaam bestaan, of hij wil zich verschuilen voor confrontaties, zich afschermen van zijn emoties.
 
Verfilmde romans van Moravia:
 
Enkele andere Italiaanse films over de fascistische periode:
 
Literatuur over de film Il Conformista
Reviews
 
Plato’s grot: de scène in de studeerkamer van professor Quadri
In de film Il Conformista is de verwijzing naar Plato’s grot toegevoegd door de scenarioschrijvers.
 
Wagstaff (2012, p. 51-56)
“Quadri’s office is bare, all made of wood, while the smoke from a cigarette left in an ashtray serves to reveal light, but also to evoke the fire of Plato’s cave.
 
As Marcello starts to describe the myth of the cave, the camera very, very slowly descends from a high to a low position, simultaneously tilting upwards, bringing in the tall window behind the desk, revealing the church outside, with Marcello a tall figure seen from below in the foreground. He starts miming with his hand the passage of the statues in Plato’s myth of the cave, and the camera begins to rise and pull in. There is a cutaway to a brief shot of Quadriagainst the window, followed by a full shot of Marcello giving a fascist salute, with his shadow on the wall behind him. He looks up at his hand and quickly withdraws it, making explicit for the viewer the reference. After a sequence of reverse-angle close-ups of Marcello and Quadri (Quadri in shadow, almost a silhouette, Marcello lit), Marcello turns to the wall bearing his shadow, as the dialogue reaches the words ‘the shadows of things’ (Quadri’s critique of fascism is an idealist one, characteristic of bourgeois anti-fascist intellectuals).
 
When Quadri says of Plato’s slaves: They would mistake for reality the shadows of reality, Bertolucci is repeating, on a verbal and conceptual level, the scene in front of the EIAR studio window, giving a sort of didactic gloss on that earlier scene.
 
Plato’s parable describes cinema, with the audience, like the slaves, gazing at shadows of imitations of reality. The ensuing dialogue goes as follows. Quadri: That was your thesis [Plato’s myth of the cave]. Did you complete it? Marcello: No. You left and I did another one. Quadri: I’m really sorry, Clerici. I had great faith in you. In all of you. Marcello: No, I don’t believe it. If it were true, you would never have left. The theme here is abandonment by the father; the loss of his support and approval.
 
[...] Quadri: At the point we had reached, there was no longer any choice. All we could do was emigrate. … We wanted people to understand the historical significance of our anger and our struggle … Marcello: Fine words! You left, and I became a fascist. (But we know from so many indications that he hasn’t really become fascist. He is uttering this as though punishing Quadri for his abandonment.) Quadri senses this: Excuse me, Clerici, but a convinced fascist doesn’t talk like that, and he opens the shutters.
 
The camera cuts, not to Marcello but to the blank wall and to his shadow, which disappears. The film-makers have shot the scene with two sources of lighting, one inside the room and the other outside the window behind Quadri’s desk. When Marcello closes the window on the opposite wall, the lighting inside the room is extinguished, leaving the light outside the window to act as the projector in a cinema. It is enough for the house lights in the auditorium to come on for the fantasy on the screen to disappear.”
 
 
Kidney (1986, p. 8-9)
“This motif of blindness vs. sight, unconsciousness vs. consciousness, darkness vs. sight, is best embodied when Clerici meets with his former professor, Luca Quadri, in the latter’s study. The office contains two large windows, symmetrically positioned on either side of the frame. As the two reminisce, Clerici stands up and closes the left-most window, leaving Quadri, standing on the frame’s right in a silhouette, and Cleirici, still on the left, in total darkness. Clerici then recounts Plato’s allegory, one that Quadri taught his students a decade prior.
 
Prisoners, enchained in a cave-like dungeon since birth, are forced to reside in the very depths of it. A light flashes further away in this dungeon, but in between lies a low wall. Clerici, who has up until this point been obscured in darkness, suddenly moves into the foreground, half of his body now rendered in silhouette, before turning to face the luminous window. He continues the allegory, explaining that there are several other men who pass behind this wall, bearing statues that are taller than the wall. At this point, Clerici’s hand moves deliberately across his face, creating a distinct shadow, before raising his arm in a simulation of the fascist salute.”
 
As Quadri thanks his former student for the fond memories, the camera cuts to a 180° reverse shot which projects Clerici’s salute upon the wall behind him. Quadri, now remembering his lecture from 1928, identifies the allegory as Plato’s, at which point Clerici claims how much these prisoners “resemble us.” Clerici then turns to face the wall, looking straight at his projected shadow, before raising his arm and announcing that these prisoners can only see the shadows created by the fire, mistaking them for reality. Quadri then condemns the Italian state, likening its citizens to the prisoners in Plato’s myth, unable to distinguish truth and reason from fascistic bombast. [...] The iconic scene ends as Quadri opens the other window, quickly extinguishing Marcello’s shadow.
 
Bertolucci has also discussed the irresistible meta-cinematic relationship which this tale necessitates. Symbolically, any film viewer watching the shadows upon the low wall is like a prisoner. We are all at the mercy of the mimetic quality of film, but by invoking this cautionary tale Bertolucci seems to warn us to the potential fallacies and dangers of cinema. In this recreation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Bertolucci and Storaro solidify themselves as a cinematic formalists par excellence. Their precise technical control, of lighting, shadowing and the manner in which subtle movements are both timed and reflected upon other surfaces, combined with the metaphorical power of the tale, is simply awe-inspiring."