The Conformist (1970)

Bernardo Bertolucci’s stylish period thriller stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as a repressed bureaucrat in Mussolini’s Italy who is assigned to kill his former professor.

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Alternative titles

  • Il conformista Original Italian


“The Conformist sees the full flowering of Bertolucci’s stylistic flamboyance. The film at once intellectually disavows ‘decadence’ yet acknowledges an irresistible fascination for it.”
Robin Wood, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1990

Bernardo Bertolucci’s elegant but chilling drama about the psychology of fascism unfolds through a complex flashback structure, as Marcello Clerici (Trintignant) is driven in final pursuit of Luca Quadri (Enzo Tarascio), his onetime philosophy tutor and now a renowned anti-Fascist whom he has been ordered to assassinate.

Richly designed by Ferdinando Scarfiotti to reflect the fashions and imposing architecture of the Mussolini era, the film is stunningly shot by Vittorio Storaro, whose gleaming, dynamic cinematography later proved an inspiration to American directors such as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. One especially striking sequence sees Clerici being seduced by his fiancée Giulia, the striated lines of her dress crisscrossing with the shadows from a venetian blind to make a chiaroscuro web of light and darkness.

Bertolucci’s The Spider’s Stratagem (1970) also examines Italy’s totalitarian past, in the story of young man who returns to his hometown to investigate his hero father’s death.

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