WHITE NIGHTS / LE NOTTI BIANCHE
Italy – France, Cinematografica Associati (CI.AS.), Intermondia Films, 1957, 100 minutes
Scriptwriters: Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Luchino Visconti
Director: Luchino Visconti
Composer: Nino Rota
Cast: Maria Schell, Marcello Mastroianni, Jean Marais, Marcella Rovena, Maria Zanoli, Clara Calamai, Elena Fancera, Dirk Sanders
"White Nights" is another attempt of Luchino Visconti to get closer to the people. The time of neorealism is coming to an end, but the intended goal should be served by the plot about the “poor people” taken from Dostoevsky. And also Marcello Mastroianni who plays the main role, with his democratic image of a simple guy. Visconti wanted to give the actor, whom he had trained in the theater, a more difficult task and to give him the opportunity to fully show his talent. However, "White Nights" had a lukewarm reception, and at the Venice Festival it was awarded only the “honorary” second prize, the Silver Lion, which seemed almost tantamount to failure. Mastroianni joked bitterly: “I am hopeless – it is time to admit it. I will have to play only taxi drivers until the rest of my days”. But very little time will pass, and after Fellini’s "La Dolce Vita" and "8 1/2" he will become a symbol of the intellectual actor of the new era.
It was thought that Visconti was only able to work with large budgets and filming schedules of the order of six months. The director decided to refute this opinion. “White Nights” was filmed in a record seven weeks and three days, but the budget, initially minimal, grew substantially. Suso Cecchi D'Amico was seriously afraid of prosecution, because she was not only a co-writer of the script, but together with Mastroianni and producer Franco Cristaldi joined the board of a small film company run by Visconti, which took on the burden of the film’s costs.
A significant part of the budget went to the salary of Maria Schell, who was then at the height of world fame. A year before that, with the help of Visconti, who was a member of the jury of the Venice Film Festival, she received the Volpi Cup for her role in René Clement's “Gervaise”. Visconti appreciated the Austrian actress with radiant eyes and a magical smile. She reminded him of his Austrian beloved Irma Windisch-Graetz, whom Visconti in his distant youth had called "baby doll". Schell learned the entire role of Natalia in Italian, and she did not even have to be dubbed. Around this time, Schell also received an offer to play Grushenka in the American adaptation of “The Brothers Karamazov” directed by Richard Brooks (the role that Marilyn Monroe had dreamed of and aimed at). Visconti uses Schell's “soulful” image but creates two counterforces to it. It is Marcello Mastroianni in the guise of the Italian Dreamer (he gets the name Mario). And it is Jean Marais in the role of the mysterious Tenant (he also has a name - Giuliano).
Two myths collide here. One is a Russian and "Dostoevsky" one, slightly dialed down and adapted to the Italian soil. The second is a guest from the coldish French romantic avant-garde, from the world of Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais. By that time, the latter had begun to be passed around from one commercial director to another and had become a favorite hero of female viewers all over the world. Visconti finds the actor at the turn of his career, when self-expression gives way to genre cliches, and the romantic image turns into self-parody. This corresponds to the idea of ​​the film: obsession with dreams tears a person away from solid ground, makes him a victim of social neurosis.
For Visconti, this work is an approach to a more organic and deep interpretation of Dostoevsky’s mythology. The love triangle of “White Nights” foreshadows another one, in “Rocco and His Brothers”, also international, French-Italian (Alain Delon - Annie Girardot - Renato Salvatori), but the Dostoevsky Russian trace will be no less visible in it. “White Nights” is a sketch for “Rocco”, where the plot, which has the same sentimental roots, rises above the melodrama, and acquires a tragic intensity. In “Rocco”, Jean Marais's place will be taken by Alain Delon: he will be entrusted to embody the theme of disastrous beauty and destructive purity.
In addition to the three human figures, the fourth and essentially the main character - the city - looms with extreme expressiveness in the haze of "White Nights". And this is the most impressive thing in the film: the way Visconti interpreted Dostoevsky’s Petersburg. He did not film "White Nights" in his native Milan (the time for "Rocco" has not yet come) or in Turin, which also has some similar features with our Northern Capital. He chose the Tuscan port city of Livorno with numerous canals, cramped dirty streets, and autumn nights that are nowhere near white. Artificial light comes to the rescue because Livorno was almost entirely built at the Cinecitta studios. The cameraman Giuseppe Rotunno, at the insistence of Visconti, abandoned camera filters and used kilometers of expensive tulle to build up the "fog". This made it possible to highlight and enlarge the faces of the actors in long shots almost like on the stage.
Saint Petersburg, this myth of literature and cinema, is picturesquely theatricalized and embodied in "White Nights" as if it were the territory of the moon, and not an earthly city, even if it was a distant Russian one. And here’s a paradoxical effect. Visconti, who made probably not his best film, managed to create one of the best adaptations of Dostoevsky, a writer to whom it is almost impossible to find a screen “key”. His novels, filled with emotional delusions and schizophrenic affects, cannot be interpreted in a realistic way, and direct visualization often simply kills them.
On the contrary, Akira Kurosawa, Robert Bresson, and Luchino Visconti, by transferring the Dostoevsky plots from the 19th century St. Petersburg to modern Hokkaido, Paris or Livorno, reach the target. And even the alienating, ecstatic rock’n’roll rhythms that invaded the last third of Visconti’s “White Nights” turn out to be unexpectedly close to the nervous, hysterical world of the Russian writer.

Andrey Plakhov
Based on the story "White Nights" by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Post-war Italy. Every night on the streets of Livorno, a lonely man named Mario meets a girl named Natalia who is waiting for her lover. He had disappeared a year ago but had promised to return.
SHEDULE

November 22, Monday
19:50
White Nights (1957)
The film will be screened in its original language with Russian subtitles. Film 35 mm.
12+

The film will be presented by film historian Nina Tsyrkun.
Illuzion Cinema
Big Hall

November 23, Tuesday
15:10
White Nights (1957)
The film will be screened in its original language with Russian subtitles. Film 35 mm.
12+
Illuzion Cinema
Big Hall

Made on
Tilda