Umberto D ( 1952)
This Italian neorealist film was named as one of Time Magazines "All-Time 100 Movies" in 2005. It was shot on location with a cast of non-professional actors -- which tense to increase to the authentic atmosphere that adds to the central themes of the film.
The central theme of the film can be described in the first instance as a compassionate insight into the human condition and the human need for care, love and the basics of life. The action of the films centers on an old pensioner who finds that he cannot make ends meet. All that he has in the word is his dog. Essentially, the main character has no family, no friends and no hope. He and his dog turn to begging in an attempt to survive.
The film takes place in the postwar years, which was a time of economic struggle. It was also a time of change and the rise of modernism. This also meant that the traditional values of care and compassion for others was changing and the world was becoming more 'rational' and less caring. In a sense the atmosphere and themes of the film could be seen to be as a reflection of the era of reconstruction in Europe after the Second World War.
However, while the general underlying main theme of the film is the search for kindness and compassion in word that has become less caring, the film is focused in the issue on the plight of elderly people . It is essentially about the loneliness of an old man and is a commentary on the way that elderly people become redundant in society. In this sense it can be seen as a cinematic a work of art and a very powerful film that is intended to waken us or the human need for companionship, love and compassion in the world. Even though the film was made in 1952 it is essentially about themes that are just as important, if not more so, in our modern and contemporary world.
2. La Strada (1954)
The English title of this film is the Road. It was directed by the famous Federico Fellini in 1954. La Strada won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956.
This film is essentially a love story about a women sold to a rough man and their subsequent relationship. Gelsomina is sold to a gypsey, Zampano, who makes a living as a carnival strongman. Zampano is both a cruel and physically aggressive man and he makes Gelsomina his assistant. In spite of her hard and difficult life she retains her optimism. Although she performs well as a clown, people seem to pay little attention to her and her life is one of cruelty and emotional isolation.
However, she meets Ilmatto, a trapeze artist, and experiences kindness and warmth. But she is convinced that she actually loves Zampano. This leads to a number of events and the death of Ilmatto. Zampano cannot stand Gelsomina's intense grief at this event and he abandons her. Many years later Zampano breaks done in grief at the realization of his love for Gelsomina.
There are many themes that can be extracted from the dense and intriguing film. One is the theme of lack of self-knowledge that we see in Zampano's inability to understand his true feelings. The film is filled with many themes and symbols that are the trademark of Fellini -- for example the beach of as symbol of purity, as well as the characters and atmosphere of the carnival. I found that this film was particularly impressive in terms of imagination and cinematography. Typically, Fellini explores the human condition from many different vantage points and perspectives and increases our sense of wonder at the richness of life.
3. Wild Strawberries (1957)
Wild Strawberries is a 1957 film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. It is essentially a psychological and interpretive film about an old man who reflects on his past life. The experiences and people that he meets during the course of the film cause him to reassess and question his own past life and present existence. This film had a deeply emotional and intellectual effect on me and I found that it made me also question my views about life and the meaning of existence.
From a personal point-of-view this is an extremely intriguing film as it is in effect an existential and deeply- felt examination of the meaning of life. An old man who feels the reality of encroaching death is forced to delve into his past during the course of the film. The film is certainly not a superficial 'road-trip' but deals with philosophical questions in terms of everyday experiences and events. It also deals with many themes, such as identity and the meaning of human life. This film is also considered by many critics as being one of Bergman's most intense and optimistic films. .
The plot revolves around an elderly medical doctor and professor who is on a trip with his daughter-in-law Marianne from Stockholm to Lund to receive an honorary degree from Lund University. On the surface the action of the film focuses on the events and people that he encounters and interacts with on this trip. However, at a deeper level it becomes a psychological journey into life. For example, the main character encounters a female hitchhiker and her fiance as well as a married couple who are always bickering and arguing. Through these characters he is reminded of his past and he begins it revaluate his life through the recollection of certain central events.
For instance the female hitchhiker reminds him of his earlier love, Sara.
The various characters that are encountered become intertwined and invoke his memories and fantasies. They also cause him to remember painful disappointments in his life and his disillusionment with life in general. This forces him to confront the reality of his past existence. He does this as well in the light of the fact that he is old and facing inevitable death. This creates a situation that makes him come to terms with his past life and to develop a more comprehending and optimistic attitude towards life.
The film is essentially an artistic exploration of the meaning of self-discovery. There are also many symbols that the director injects into the narrative of the film which adds depth to this intriguing and rewarding cinematic experience; for example, the image of a clock without hands and a man without a face. These are all symbols that relate to the search for meaning and identity in life - which is an essential theme that runs throughout the film.
4. Pickpocket (1959)
Pickpocket is a 1959 film by the French director Robert Bresson. It is essentially a story about crime and redemption. The plot revolves around a young pickpocket, Michel. As his compulsion to commit crime grows so does his inner tension and the fear of being caught - or possibly his wish to be caught. Although he is detained by the police at one stage he is not convicted due to lack of evidence. He continues his career or crime and develops a theory the he is beyond the law and the moral obligations that apply to ordinary people. In the course of the film he is finally apprehended by the police.
The central theme that dominates this film is the immorality of crime and the individual who develops a distorted and almost Nietzschean conception of his own superiority. The central character feels that he is somehow who has 'special' qualities. His redemptive side is reflected in the woman in his life who trusts him and believes that he is more than he appears.
A number of aspects are intriguing about this film. One is the way that the central character seems to be blind to the moral aspects of his behavior. The other is his narcissistic attitude and the underlying suggestion that he would really like to repent for his actions.
The director of the film suggests something of the complexity of this character in the way that the he is portrayed without any sense of feeling or emotion. He often appears with a blank and unemotional facial expression and with unfocused eyes.
An aspect that intrigues about the film is the implied contradiction in the narcissistic attitude of the main character. There is a suggestion that the thief in a sense wants to be caught. He would possibly like to stop his life of crime but somehow cannot. The film is a complex exploration of the criminal mind and the human psyche.
5. La Notte (1961)
La Notte or the Night is an Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. This film won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. The plot of the film follows one day in the life of middle -- aged couple in Milan. The man, Giovanni, is a successful writer. He and his wife visit…