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La Strada

Directed by Federico Fellini

Italy, 1954

HOME, 21 May 2017

La Strada

The ending gets to you every time.

There is Zampano (Anthony Quinn) drunken and walking to the sea (is he considering suicide? Maybe but no, it is not going to happen this time), collapsing on the sand, looking up to the sky and realising, perhaps, that if there is a God then Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), the saintly woman who loved him, is now in a place which he could never enter. And if not, if there is no God, well then death is a door that he can never open. She has parted from him for good. So he writhes in agony on the sand, alone, racked by – by what exactly?

Well, by his capacity for love, which Gelsomina alone had awakened; by the memory of his betrayal, a betrayal fuelled by despair at being unable to reach her; by all that he had lost when that strange woman – who only he (he now knows) could love, as only she could love him – left his life. ‘Tragic’ doesn’t even come close.

Fellini’s art lies in how the film sets you up for this final devastating moment (those scenes with the sea as a backdrop, say, like the refrain in a villanelle), how he makes it as real as your own experience. A stone cold masterpiece.