Directed by Federico Fellini and released in it’s home country of Italy in 1957.
This review was written on August 8th 2011.
We start out with a girl being chased by her lover through a set of fields. As they edge closer to a river, her lover snatches her handbag and pushes her in head first. From then on the protagonist of the story Maria, or Cabiria as she is known on the streets, plunges into the streets bumping into a seemingly never ending array of characters who never seem to fully embrace her. They push her to one side, leaving her heartbroken time and time again. What makes it worse for her is that she is a prostitute – the one “profession” where looking for love is frowned upon and near impossible.
Halfway through the film, Cabiria meets a man who, at night, feeds poor people who live in caves. This character is the only male in the entire film who stays true to her in one way or another. They part ways with a smile and a thank you and he is never seen again. Another scene which cannot leave my memory is where Cabiria stumbles into a magic show and inadvertently volunteers. She is put under a trance and made to act out a scene where she falls hopelessly in love with a man she just met by the name of Oscar. When she awakes from the trance she has no memory of what happened and is bewildered by the crowd who jeer at her. The performance of the magician (or the ‘wizard’ as IMDb lists his character) is especially memorable. Once she leaves the show, she just so happens to meet a man named Oscar who is adamant that they share a connection. After spending time with each other they decide to get married, only for Maria to find out that he isn’t all he has cracked up to be – which leads to another eventual heartbreak.
The pivotal finale, and Maria’s character’s undoubted peak, is absolutely wonderful. She sneaks a sly smile at the camera through a flourish of tears that can only leave you with the impression that we are not leaving this woman unhappy as we saw her in opening scenes of the film.
The story is incredibly written, and the absolutely beautiful score pulls you in and lingers in the background in the most amicable way especially in scenes where music isn’t even necessary. Fellini directs the film with such vigour and beauty that it’s so hard not to look away. Even shots of the streets look divine and I can only imagine how hard lighting those scenes must’ve been for the crew.
Regardless, Fellini overcomes that and presents a finely shot film with a main character with elegance and charm that you cannot overlook – all thanks to the absolutely amazing lead performance from Giulietta Masina.