Visconti counterposes romance and rebellion in this historical tale of love and betrayal set against the Italian risorgimento in 1866. Both the aristocracy and Garibaldi's partisan patriots battle the Austro-Hungarian Empire for Italian independence. During a performance of Giuseppe
Verdi's "Il Trovatore" in Venice, as the operatic chorus chants "All'armi, all'armi" (to arms, to arms), the patriots in the stalls and the Italian aristocrats in the boxes take up the chant and unfurl the Italian flag, to the alarm of the occupying Austrian officers. A young Austrian lieutenant,
Granger, makes a disparaging remark about the Italians and is challenged to a duel by the fiery young Girotti, an underground leader. His cousin, the beautiful contessa Valli, is in attendance with a group of Austrian officers. Realizing Girotti's peril if he is discovered, she protects him by
sending for Granger and pointing out that the stage, not life, is the appropriate place for such a drama as a duel. Granger defers to her wishes but later secretly denounces Girotti, who is arrested and exiled. Valli is attracted to the handsome, cynical young officer, and the two become lovers.
When the evasive Granger disappears for a time, she awaits his return. A message arrives for her, bearing only an address; she rushes to meet her lover but is intercepted by her husband, Moog, at the meeting place. Trapped, she begins to confess her infidelity when the door bursts open to reveal
not Granger, but the newly returned Girotti. Her husband elects to disbelieve her confession, assuming it to be a diversion to throw him off Girotti's track (Moog was sympathetic to the Austrian cause, but now, sensing a turn of fate, he seeks an alliance with the partisans). Girotti has raised
money for the cause and entrusts it to Valli. However, she gives the money to the returned Granger so that he can buy his way out of military service in the forthcoming shooting war, sending him to Verona. Against his explicit instructions, the love-struck Valli then follows Granger and finds him
ridden with guilt, drinking heavily, and supporting an attractive young woman on the funds that had been intended for the partisans. Betrayed and guilty herself of betraying the national cause, she denounces him as a deserter. He is shot, and Valli cries his name through the streets crowded with
besotted soldiers celebrating a victory. A visually beautiful, well-crafted, disarmingly cynical set-piece in which the motives of the proud patriots seem as banal and petty as those of the selfishly lustful. Cinematographer Graziata died during production.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Visconti counterposes romance and rebellion in this historical tale of love and betrayal set against the Italian risorgimento in 1866. Both the aristocracy and Garibaldi's partisan patriots battle the Austro-Hungarian Empire for Italian independence. Durin… (more)