Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Italy/France, 1957. Cinematografica Associati, Intermondia Films, Vides Cinematografica. Story and Screenplay by Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Luchino Visconti, based on the novel Belye Noci by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno. Produced by Franco Cristaldi. Music by Nino Rota. Production Design by Mario Chiari. Costume Design by Piero Tosi. Film Editing by Mario Serandrei.
Lonely Marcello Mastroianni finds a sad young woman (Maria Schell) wandering the moonlit streets of the tiny Italian hamlet where he has recently moved for work. Immediately smitten with her, Mastroianni tries to convince Schell to spend some harmless time with him, but she insists she cannot. Assuming provincial modesty is preventing her from dating him, Mastroianni keeps pressing until she tells him she is waiting for the handsome stranger (Jean Marais) who was once a lodger in her grandmother’s home and who promised to return for her. Mastroianni tries to talk her out of the ridiculous situation of her endless waiting (a year by this point), but she prefers the ideal fantasy in her head to the more practical possibility right in front of her. Adapted from the short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, this is a beautifully photographed, deeply felt romance from the great Luchino Visconti. Visconti’s adaptation injects passion into every aspect of the film, from the overwhelmingly heartfelt performance by Schell to the gorgeous imagery. The entire film was shot on an indoor set, one giant work of art made to look like an idealized small town, and its intentional artificiality only adds to the beauty of the experience.