Possibly the most overtly romantic anti-romance ever made? Between this and Senso, Visconti has done more to skewer my notions of romance and beauty than any other filmmaker possibly. The film depicts romance/love as a largely solipsistic endeavor.. one that’s less about the object of one’s desire than with our own desire to add meaning and drama to our own lives.
The conflict between our notions of beauty and love and a harsher reality are all over the film. The visuals amplify this tension with the with the whole film being set on a rather fake-looking (albeit gorgeous) set. Visconti’s framing makes such great use of foreground and background in this regard. When Natalia is narrating her night-long walk with her lover, Mario’s visualization of the scene has the street full of happy kids playing hopscotch. It’s only when we see Mario and Natalia take that boat ride that we see the homeless starving people that live under the bridge. And even then, it’s evident that Mario doesn’t notice them at all. The snowfall at the end is a particularly nice touch.
The whole thing is just quietly devastating.