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La Strada (1954)
|by P. G. R. Nair|
Director: Federico Fellini /Italy/Italian/104 mts
Although her timorousness fades into happiness as they play villages, fairs and country weddings, her idyllic existence is broken when they sign up and join a small circus on the outskirts of Rome. Here Zampano encounters the Fool (Richard Basehart) employed by the circus company. He mocks Zampano, who attacks him in a rage, and is jailed. The Fool is attracted to Gelsomina, but sees that she has formed a strong bond with the strongman, and leaves so they can be together. A catalyst in other characters’ lives, he gives Gelsomina hope. "Everyone serves some purpose," he tells her, "and perhaps you must serve him."
Despite this doleful outline, Fellini has not handled his story in merely tragic or heavily dramatic fashion. From the start, Fellini visually contrasts the two main characters of his film: Gelsomina-blonde, diminutive, pixy-faced, humble in bearing; Zampano-dark, huge, glowering and arrogant in demeanor. On one level, La Strada is a fable about Beauty and the Beast; in this case, however, Gelsomina's beauty is interior, not exterior, and it is a beauty who loves the Beast, not the other way round-at least for the most of the picture. The film begins and ends by the sea; but, though the structure is in one sense circular, the opening and closing are in sharp contrast. When we first meet Zamapano, he is standing tall and strong in the sun-water. At the end, the camera slowly recedes and rises, leaving Zampano looking small and alone on the beach at night. Thus, when we take leave of Zampano, he remains prostrate before the sea, no longer proud of his strength but hardly enduring his dark night of the soul.
Anthony Quinn is excellent as the growling, monosyllabic and apparently ruthless strong man, whose tastes are primitive and immediate. But his characterization is sensitively developed so that his innate loneliness shows through the chinks of his rough exterior. As the cheerful and prescient clown, Richard Basehart, like the haunting background score by Nino Rota, provides a humorous but pointed counterpoint to the towering and basically serious delineations of the two principals.
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