Last Spring semester, before I took a flight over the cuckoo’s nest, I was in a class on Italian Neorealism. We watched a film called La Terra Trema (1948), a film about Sicilian fisherman, played by Sicilian fisherman, shot in Sicily, and recorded in their Sicilian dialect of Italian. Now I had already seen the film before, so having to sit through this nearly 3 hour film again put me to sleep. It didn’t help that the film is dreadfully boring on top of everything else. It’s very real and well made, but mind-numbing. The director Luchino Visconti was far better with films like The Leopard (1963). Grand costume dramas about the upper crust of Italy’s past. Knowing all this my teacher showed us a clip from Visconti’s film Senso. At first glance it looked like this was the beginning of Visconti’s second phase, but in fact it was more of a transition. If you looked for it you could still find elements of realism, which is why he was showing it to us.
Now after having made my flight and having a rough landing, I decided I should see the whole film. What can I say, the shot composition is gorgeous as you can see from the picture above. The problem is that the plot is boring and cruel. I won’t reveal too much, but the film is essentially one long torture of a Countess during Italy’s period of unification. This may have been an allegory for something, but I couldn’t care less. To me it was just an exercise in mise en scene. If you want to make movies, see it. If not, you can skip it and see The Leopard instead.