Before the Revolution, 1964


This past decade has seen the streets come alive with a symphony of loud-hailers. Once again the social tumult of Bernardo Bertolluci’s 1964 picture Before the Revolution is achingly relevant. Fabrizio (Francisco Barilli) a young revolutionary finds himself at odds with his own family. To play a trick against his bourgeois destiny he escapes into an incestuous relationship with the jaded beauty of his mother’s sister, Gina (Asti). While the lover’s find new ways to escape, Morricone’s arresting soundtrack bleeds through the film pouring living energy into the dying Italian landscape which keeps the lover’s imprisoned.

In one such sequence the camera sweeps across a rural landscape as a farm owner laments his new poverty and predicts the coming death of his world. Fabrizio, young and enraged, condemns the man for his class-position. The image is fraught with its own antagonistic energies- between the humanistic leap-of-faith inherent to love, and the ‘science’ of the intellectuals and their party. The melancholy is never finally resolved. The camera tracks lines painted across the dying culture of the Italian Peasants in sweeping frames, but they are lines that emphasise the violent unfolding of history. Manifest everywhere in this sequence is the subjectivity of Fabrizio in conflict not only with the outside world- in his sloganeering for revolution, but also with himself in his identification with the class that he must destroy.

The young Bertolluci’s script sweeps through themes as if blowing away a dandelion-head. Themes as grandiose as revolution, class, gender, pass off momentarily before they become forgotten, seeds that are still ungerminated.

A new audience must find Bertolluci’s film and struggle with it. As they still want for many of the things that Fabrizio hungered for, change and safety, passion and love, all conflicting and wrestling in the traumatic time: before the revolution.