La strada (English: The Road) (1954) is an Italian neorealist film, directed by Federico Fellini. The movie is a drama about a naive young girl who is sold to a brute in a coastal town in Italy. This carnival strong man (Anthony Quinn), makes a living by drawing a crowd to a square, expanding his chest to break a chain,and then passing the hat. As Zampanò is physically and emotionally cruel Gelsomina has an ethereal quality of wind,- she has a prophetic ability to predict the weather.
In their interaction Fellini explores the soul’s eternal conflict between the heart and mind. This was made clear by Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot. Remember Vladimir and Estragon? One cannot do without the other and what havoc this conflict may sow in us? In such devastating relationships it is always Gelsomina who gets the short end. Gelsomina’s plight is that her heart realizes that Zampanò however abusive he is, is in need of her.
She has a bird-like quality, delicate and strangely beautiful, as well, yet she is the butt of his rage and frustration. She is also an artist despite such simple artless airs she retains throughout. She learns to play the snare drum and trumpet, do a bit of dancing, and play a clown (superbly played by Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina).
Along the road they encounter “Il Matto”/”The Fool” (Richard Basehart), a circus acrobat and clown who teaches Gelsomina that there might be more to life than her servitude to Zampanò. Her mind also tells that he is right.
Despite this, he talks her out of leaving Zampanò. The “Fool” and Zampanò have a long-standing enmity, and when Zampanò kills the “Fool” in a rage, it breaks Gelsomina’s spirit.
When Zampano realizes this, he leaves her on the side of the road. Years later, when he learns of her death in a local village, he experiences remorse for the first time in his life and he breaks down crying uncontrollably on the beach.
As a coda to their doomed and impossible partnership, Nino Rota’s haunting theme strikes one as the signature tune for the soul of the tragic Gelsomina. It first appears in the story line as a melody played by the Fool on a miniature violin, and later by Gelsomina after she teaches herself to play the trumpet. At the end of the movie, the brutish Zampano learns of Gelsomina’s death when he hears a young woman singing this melody in a town he travels through, and he asks her where she learned it. Soul of a simple girl who hovered between optimism and reality of her existence, is deathless: it weaves its own counterpoint to her experience and it is tenuous as the musical notes itself. As such it shall confront the unfeeling strongman in some form or other when it is too late for him.
La strada won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956.
Fellini has stated that the idea of the character Zampanò came from his youth in the coastal town of Rimini. A pig castrator lived there who was known as a womanizer: according to Fellini, “This man took all the girls in town to bed with him; once he left a poor idiot girl pregnant and everyone said the baby was the devil’s child.”
In 1992, Fellini told Canadian director Damian Pettigrew that he had conceived the film at the same time as co-writer Tullio Pinelli in a kind of “orgiastic synchronicity. I was directing I vitelloni and Tullio had gone to see his family in Turin. At that time, there was no autostrada between Rome and the north and so you had to drive through the mountains. Along one of the tortuous winding roads, he saw a man pulling a carretta, a sort of cart covered in tarpaulin… A tiny woman was pushing the cart from behind. When he returned to Rome, he told me what he’d seen and his desire to narrate their hard lives on the road. ‘It would make the ideal scenario for your next film,’ he said. It was the same story I’d imagined but with a crucial difference: mine focused on a little traveling circus with a slow-witted young woman named Gelsomina. So we merged my flea-bitten circus characters with his smoky campfire mountain vagabonds. We named Zampanò after the owners of two small circuses in Rome: Zamperla and Saltano.”
The picture was filmed in Bagnoregio, Viterbo, Lazio, Ovindoli, L’Aquila, and Abruzzo; all in Italy.
* Anthony Quinn as Zampanò
* Giulietta Masina as Gelsomina
* Richard Basehart as Il ‘Matto’ – The “Fool”
* Aldo Silvani as Il Signor Giraffa – Mr Giraffe
* Marcella Rovere as La Vedova – The Widow
* Livia Venturini as La Suorina – The Sister
The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 6, 1954 and won the Silver Lion. It opened widely in Italy on September 22, 1954.
* Venice Film Festival: Silver Lion, Federico Fellini; 1954.
* Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon; Best Director, Federico Fellini; Best Producer, Dino De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti; 1955.
* New York Film Critics Circle Awards: NYFCC Award Best Foreign Language Film; 1956.
* Bodil Awards: Bodil; Best European Film, Federico Fellini (director); 1956.
* Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Foreign Language Film; 1957.
* Blue Ribbon Awards, Japan: Blue Ribbon Award, Best Foreign Language Film, Federico Fellini; 1958.
* Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain: CEC Award, Best Foreign Film, 1958.
* Kinema Junpo Awards, Japan: Kinema Junpo Award, Best Foreign Language Film; 1958.
Nights of Cabiria (1957, Federico Fellini)
Variété (1925, Ewald André Dupont)
Sweet and Lowdown (1999, Woody Allen)
Mélo (1986, Alain Resnais)
Girl in Black (1956, Michael Cacoyannis)
Glass Johnny: Looks Like a Beast (1962, Koreyoshi Kurahara)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Nights of Cabiria (1957, Federico Fellini)
La Dolce Vita (1960, Federico Fellini)
Boccaccio ’70 (1962, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti)
Variety Lights (1951, Federico Fellini, Alberto Lattuada)
City of Women (1980, Federico Fellini)
Fellini Satyricon (1969, Federico Fellini)
Juliet of the Spirits (1965, Federico Fellini)
Ginger and Fred (1986, Federico Fellini)
Other Related Movies
is related to: Barabbas (1962, Richard Fleischer)
The Fool: What a funny face! Are you a woman, really? Or an artichoke?
The Fool: Maybe he loves you?
The Fool: Why not? He is like dogs. A dog looks at you, wants to talk, and only barks.
The Fool: I am ignorant, but I read books. You won’t believe it, everything is useful… this pebble for instance.
Gelsomina: Which one?
The Fool: Anyone. It is useful.
Gelsomina: What for?
The Fool: For… I don’t know. If I knew I’d be the Almighty, who knows all. When you are born and when you die… Who knows? I don’t know for what this pebble is useful but it must be useful. For if its useless, everything is useless. So are the stars!
Gelsomina: The fool is hurt.
Zampanò: [reciting his act by rote before a crowd] Here we have a piece of chain that is a quarter of an inch thick. It is made of crude iron, stronger than steel. With the simple expansion of my pectoral muscles, or chest, that is, I’ll break the hook.
[collecting money from the crowd]
Zampanò: Thank you, thank you. Now, to do this feat, I must fill myself up like a tire. If a blood vessel should break, I would spit blood. For instance, in Milan a man weighing 240 pounds lost his eyesight doing this trick. That is because the optical nerves take a beating, and once you lose your eyes, you are finished. If there’s any delicate person in the audience, I would advise him to look away ’cause there could be blood.
[with seemingly great effort, he breaks the chain]
# Anthony Quinn said in an interview a few years before his death that he originally accepted a deal that would have paid him a percentage of the profits this film generated instead of an upfront salary. When his agent found out about it, the agent changed the deal and insisted an upfront salary and no percentage. Quinn said that decision cost him several million dollars.
# Won the first ever Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Directed by Federico Fellini
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Written by Screenplay:
Music by Nino Rota
Cinematography Otello Martelli
Editing by Leo Cattozzo
Running time 104 minutes