This film is about the three men pictured above. Nicola on the left, Gianni in the center, and Antonio on the right. They meet during WWII and the story takes you through postwar Italy to the mid-1970’s when this film came out. Only four years before the kidnapping and murder of Christian Democrat party member Aldo Moro after he had proposed a compromise with the Italian Communist Party who had been kicked out of the government after the war by the Democrats.
The three men’s lives take different directions that represent different cross-sections of Italian society. They all meet several times over the years including the final meeting pictured above. The cinema of Italy, neo-realism in particular, is tied heavily into the film. In fact, Vittorio De Sica is shown in archival footage and Fellini is actually in it where he gets introduced to a man who mistakenly greets him as Mr. Rossellini. But more than just that, the character Nicola has his whole life after the war changed by De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief. He defends it while others say that Italy shouldn’t air it’s dirty laundry in public and it gets him fired from his job as a professor along with his family. Later he gets onto a quiz show and he nearly wins it all except that he messes up when asked why the actor cried at the end of The Bicycle Thief. He explains how De Sica made the actor cry rather than why the character cried. A fine detail that’s very important if you’re studying cinematic realism, but it causes him to lose on the show. After this he goes into obscurity where he toils without much to show for it.
Antonio becomes a communist activist, but all in all he is the middle ground of the three by really living his life the way he intended to before the war. Gianni on the other hand marries into the family of a “former” Fascist and it ultimately brings him the riches that the Christian Democrats took from the people. In the end, he tries to tell his friends that he is rich and therefore their enemy, but they are too busy with their usual arguments to listen.
You can sit down and enjoy this movie, but the more you know about postwar Italian history and Italian cinema the more you will appreciate it.