I really love the architecture of fascist period and It was the subject of my dissertation at the University.
It’s not a coincidence that some of my favorite films have the fascist architecture as Set Design, created by great production designers as Dante Ferretti and Ferdinando Scarfiotti.
The Movies are: The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci, (1970) based on Alberto Moravia’s novel “Il conformista”, written in 1947 and Titus by Julie Taymor, (1999), based on the worldwide famous William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Titus Andronicus”.
Many contemporary Production Designers (Alex Mc Dowell) consider The Conformist film praised as a visual masterpiece. Bertolucci’s movie concerns Marcello Clerici (Trintignant), an Italian who is about to get married to a middle-class woman Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli). Marcello’s obsession with conforming to the norms of society extends to joining a secret government organisation. He volunteers to seek out the anti-fascist Professor Quadri (Tarascio) and is eventually told to assassinate him. But things become complicated when Marcello and his wife meet the Professor’s wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda).
The Film-maker chose some locations of the EUR District in Rome, created in the late 1930s for the Esposizione Universale di Roma by Benito Mussolini.
For example in the scene where the young Marcello is going to visit his father in the asylum, accompanied by his mother is incredible. The set represented here is surreal, with the insane people dressed like ancient Roman consolers in an open air space.
In this case Bertolucci here has reinvented the Palace of the Congresses made by Adalberto Libera as a place for insane people, maybe with the allegoric meaning that fascist architecture was insane as well, representing the power of the regime.
Adalberto Libera also original designer for Casa Malaparte on the Island of Capri, which was featured prominently in -Jean-Luc Godard movie, Le Mèpris, (The Contempt) 1963, based on Alberto Moravia’s novel “Il disprezzo”, written in 1954.
Bertolucci chose Rationalist architecture, Outlines, clean shapes for creating similarities between the building and the soul of protagonist, Marcello Clerici.
The political philosopher Takis Fotopoulos about the movie: “The Conformist is a beautiful portrait of this psychological need to conform and be normal at the social level, in general, and the political level, in particular.”
Another Fascist location is Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro where Bertolucci set the office of the Fascist secret police.
Recently, this building has been shown in Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999). Titus Andronicus”, the first of the entire Shakespearean’s masterpieces located in the ancient Roman Empire. It is a cruel and very violent tragedy, full of crime scenes and blood.
The Palace was transformed by Dante Ferretti into the palace of Emperor Saturnino (Alain Cummings) and of his wife Tamora, queen of the Goths, interpreted by Jessica Lange. The director Julie Taymor chose this important public space probably to mean the strength of the power of any totalitarian regime and It’s really visually remarkable.
It’s also important on this movie the costume designer : Milena Canonero (pluri Oscar award winner with Stanley Kubrick).
But I want to remember you others important movies set in the EUR District:
– Eclipse (1962) by Michelangelo Antonioni,
– Equilibrium (2001) , by Kurt Wimmer with Christian Bale. How you can see the same place of The Conformist (asylum) used for some set desing on this movie.
– The Belly of an Architect (1987) by Peter Greenaway.
Architecture and cinema can create to the spectator a place in wich emotions and feelings can be shared in the same ‘invented’ spaces.
Then., Great films you must not miss!