La Terra Trema (1948)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Docudrama  |   Run Time - 162 min.  |   Countries - Italy  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Luchino Visconti intended La Terra Trema (1948) to be the first of a never-completed neo-realist trilogy about fishermen, peasants, and miners uniting against economic exploitation. Shooting entirely on location in the Sicilian fishing town of Aci Trezza, Visconti used only town residents, speaking in Sicilian dialect, to depict the struggle of the Valastro fishing family against nefarious wholesalers. Though the story of the Valastros' downfall is carefully structured, Visconti consulted with the residents about how they might respond to these events, allowing him to incorporate the flavor of poverty-stricken village life in its fear, ritualization, and flashes of kindness. Visconti's magnificently composed camera work, however, lends a near-mythic sheen to the events. Finding beauty as well as hardship in the punishing landscape, his deep-focus long takes and stately pans communicate the stoic strength to survive, as well as the Valastros' ostracism and family disintegration. La Terra Trema flopped in Italy, even with cuts to its 160-minute length and voiceover narration added for clarity, and it was not seen in its full length internationally until 1965.