It’s a story told many times of a family that leaves home to find a better life elsewhere. In this masterpiece Visconti overlays this basic premise in Italy of the Economic Boom of early 60’s, the cultural dissonant emerging from a Southern family from Lucania trying to assimilate in big city Milan, and above all the elasticity of the “family unity” concept.
Why elasticity? The movie is broken into chapters where Visconti can comfortably switch gears and examine the developing plot from the perspective of each of the five Parondi’s brothers. Vincenzo (Spiros Focás) the big brother that arrives first to Milan quickly marries a local girl Ginetta (Claudia Cardinale) has two kids and buttresses himself around his new family. Then there is Simone (Renato Salvatori) who starts as a loving brother but turns into an opportunistic animal that overrides the family unity as he spirals down. In Ciro (Max Cartier), Visconti finds the true future of Italy, the only brother who finished school, works as technician at Alfa Romeo factory and about to get married. From Ciro’s perspective, Simone’s transgressions merit exclusion from the family as they’re contrasted with his beliefs of responsibility and family values.
And then we see Rocco (Alain Delon), the saint brother that can sacrifice his own love for a girl and give her to his brother Simone who needs it more. But that’s not enough, he is willing to support family unity even when the plot takes tragic turns. For him, you need to help your brother no matter what sin they committed, which is an interesting question. How far would you go?
Lucca (Rocco Vidolazzi), is the youngest and offers the innocent view as he’s being shuttled from brother to brother, running their errands and supporting their wants. Lucca is another stroke about the promising future, where kids are shown in ending scenes such as in Roma citta’ aperta – Rome Open City (Roberto Rossellini -1945).
[youtube width=”615″ height=”346″]http://youtu.be/M3tK_13gLDI[/youtube]
The original trailer
And finally there is Rosaria (Katina Paxinou), another “rock of unity” – the mother who functions as the ambitious engine behind all brothers. It was she who wanted to leave their hometown and seek better futures for her sons. She’s all about emotions and endless care for their well beings. I especially liked the morning scene when she’s urging her sons to wake up, have their breakfast, and find a job – go conquer Milan. You may find this timeless maternal care in parallel morning scenes in Il Posto – The Job (Ermanno Olmi – 1961) and even The Bicycle Thief – Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio Di Sica -1948).
In today’s fast-pace globalized economies, the classic family structure is being broken forever as family members are scattered all around the world in search for the same dreams the Parondi’s family was after. Yes, we have reunions every once in a while, we even Skype, but you and your brothers or sisters are now feeding from an ancient well that once has been ripe with live gushing waters and is now being replaced with a trickle of premeditated niceties.