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March 01, 2009

La Terra Trema (Classic Film Pick)

La terra tremaLuchino Visconti's third film is set in Aci Trezza, a poor Sicilian fishing port village being exploited by wholesale merchants. Based on Giovanni Verga's novel, the 1948 film concentrates on a family of fishermen who attempt to break the economic stranglehold of their capitalist oppressors by starting their own private business. The comparatively well-off family take out a loan to buy their own boat, against the wishes of their impoverished community of fishermen.

As its title presages "La Terra Trema" is an earth-shattering example of neo-realist filmmaking that feels as much like a documentary as it does a fictional narrative film. Visconti leans too much on explanatory narration view points, but his use of real Sicilian fishermen as non-actors expressing their daily rituals, harsh circumstances, and deeply ingrained beliefs is profound. The overall effect is a powerful portrait of human dignity caught between the cruelty of the sea and the opportunistic greed of a few.


As a portrait of an Italian family's economic collapse at the hands of mother nature and an economically repressive society, "La Terra Trema" exposes fundamental humanitarian conflicts that capitalism breeds. This film remains as timeless today as when it was made.  

Not Rated. 160 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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