Love & Anarchy

Dir: Lina Wertmüller, 1973. Starring: Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Eros Pagini. Foreign.
Love & Anarchy

Assassination and anarchy are two terms that are almost absent in our current use of language. They are historical terms. Bold terms that suggest justice by ugly, self-sacrificing means. Now we say that someone of power, who is perceived threatening and unjust, has been slain, killed, etc. Love & Anarchy sheds a bit of light on why the terms and practice of such measures have gone out of favor - even among the most militant activists.

The protagonist of this film is Tunin (Giancarlo Giannini), a freckled country boy who looks like a caricature and behaves more like a sheep than a herder. Though meek, he has only one thing on his mind: assassinate the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. It’s hard to root for him on sight alone or take his quest seriously, which is the predicament that Salome (Mariangela Melato) finds herself in. Salome is one of the most sought after prostitutes in Rome at established brothel of high esteem. She is also a spy for the Communist regime and contact for young men sent to carry out the grandest feat of their lives. She’s currently bedding Mussolini’s head of security, who has confided several key bits of information that seem uninteresting but can be used to an anarchist’s advantage.

Tunin goes to her under the public guise of being her cousin and is greeted warmly, though unprepared for the onslaught of intoxication aroused from being a guest at a brothel. He quickly falls for Giacinto (Eros Pagini), the house’s other big money-maker. But, since his mission must be kept secret he can only promise her a few days of love. Both make sacrifices in order to fit a lifetime of romance into two or three days. They succeed, and the viewer roots for them in a way that is honest and heartbreaking. For we know that it must end in tragedy, and we also bear witness to Tunin grappling with this fleeting experience while coming to terms with his fear of death. To do this, he has to enhance his determination and find solace in realm of anarchy. However, there’s an aspect to his quest that he’s concealed from Salome. Once aired, it leaves a dangerous sense of uncertainty for everyone involved. All of these elements of the plot are only half of the film’s mastery.

Within the language of cinema is one of my favorite relations - that of an image paired with music. The films that are held in high esteem historically in the West would have made an entirely different and arguably less stirring impression were it not for musical contributions from the likes of Gershwin, for example. In Italy, outside of Morricone and Goblin in the Giallo and Poliziotteschi films, Nino Rota is the grandmaster. Known mostly for his work with Fellini (whom Wertmüller assisted on 8 ½ ), his accomplishment with Love & Anarchy is so splendid and crucial that listening to the isolated score invokes the same power and emotion as seeing the scenes it accompanied. Aside from his work in La Strada and Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light” in The Passion of Joan of Arc, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt the same in regards to that.

Of course, Wertmüller's direction and the performers and the performances of her long time muses, Melato and Giannini, are worth just as much praise. The only comparable bond that comes to mind is Bergman and his on-going relationship with several actors - all able to sustain consistently memorable works that are vastly different in mood and subject matter.

Overall, the film is a strong and noteworthy example of civil unrest, told through an unlikely hero that is able to lead the viewer into a better understanding of anarchy and the emotions therein. If you like films like Death of a President and Paradise Now, I highly recommend Love & Anarchy.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Sep 11, 2015 6:34pm
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