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TERRA TREMA, LA (aka: THE EARTH WILL TREMBLE) (director/writer: Luchino Visconti; screenwriters: Antonio Pietrangeli/from the novel I Malavolgia, La Terra Trema by Giovanni Verga; cinematographer: G.R. Aldo; editor: Mario Serandrei; music: Willy Ferrero; cast: Antonio Arcidiacono (Ntoni Valastro), Giuseppe Arcidiacono (Cola), Venera Bonaccorso (La vecchia che ride), Nicola Castorino (Nicola), Rosa Catalano (Rosa), Rosa Costanzo (Nedda), Massimo Girotti (Gino); Runtime: 160; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Salvo D’Angelo; Image; 1948-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)
“It has an operatic quality.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The second feature by Luchino Visconti (“Rocco and His Brothers”/”Death in Venice”/”The Damned”), following his Ossessione (1943), is based on the Giovanni Verga 1881 novel, I Malavolgia, La Terra Trema. It’s cowritten by Visconti and Antonio Pietrangeli. The critically acclaimed and historically cinematic important but commercial flop will turn out to be the Marxist aristocrat’s most realized neo-realist film. It won a special prize at Venice for its “choral qualities and style.” It has an operatic quality that blends together a documentary story of the plight of Sicilian fishermen (using real-life fishermen) with beautiful scenic photography of the harsh landscape. The fishermen of the small fishing village of Aci-Trezza are victims of the middlemen dealers stealing their profit margins, as the filmmaker tells their story through the eyes of the Valastro family. Given today’s financial crisis in the States, the film still resonates with how the unscrupulous privileged class take advantage of the working-class and how the only way to overcome such greed is by the people rallying together for collective action to fight back being exploited.

Ntoni Valastro (Antonio Arcidiacono), the oldest son from a large impoverished generational fishermen family, returns home from WWII and talks the villagers into fighting back against those who are cheating them by coming together to eliminate the middlemen wholesalers. On the personal front, Ntoni is courting Nedda (Rosa Costanzo), the daughter of a well-off family, and realizes that he must make more money if her parents are to agree to their marriage. When the villagers start their own business they must not only battle nature but the cunning middlemen, and it proves too much as they fail and Ntoni’s family lose the house they mortgaged to help the business and Nedda rejects his marriage proposal.

The sympathetic to the fishermen Visconti intended to make an epic trilogy, but only this dreary and boring sometimes brilliant first part was ever made. Visconti added a narration after the film was released hoping this would pick up business.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”