The opening establishing shots
The film starts with eloquent captions that set the time and the place:
The same shot will be repeated at the end of the film. Primo is back home and he is about to start writing Se questo è un uomo. His survivor’s status is now full of responsibility: he is now a messenger and the number on his arm is there to remind him of his new duty.
The following scenes show the beginning of the long journey home. As in other films and literary works about the Holocaust, confusion and disorientation are the common feelings among the prisoners. Although apparently calm and serene (a state that Turturro’s Levi seems to be very comfortable with), Primo shares the same sensation as the repeated questions he poses in the first hour of the film testimony: “Go where?,” “Kept by whom?,” and “Where are we going?” This disorientation, however, does not coincide with the filming of the journey. The viewer is never lost and the journey, although winding, appears linear.
As observed by Marcus in her article, Rosi takes the responsibility to be Levi’s translator and messenger in the market scene. In this scene, Primo tries to tell what living at
Rosi’s “Cinema of Prose”
In fulfilling his duty of messenger of a messenger, as said before, Rosi is very assertive and didactic. In the second half of the film, in fact, in a series of short scenes, many issues related to the Holocaust are treated and apparently exhausted in a very simplistic way. Among these, I will talk about the problems of the camp collaborationists and of the German feeling of guilt as they are treated in two scenes of the film. The first issue is quickly approached when Cesare is distributing the meat of a calf and Daniele (a character who is never fully developed) prohibits Flora from having it because she “broke bread with the S.S.” Primo’s opposition to Daniele is clear and understandable. Nonetheless, the problem of Jewish collaboration with the Nazi deserved a much deeper analysis than the acceptance/refusal dichotomy and should have not been liquidated in terms of right or wrong.
The second issue is focused in particular in the
Rosi’s “Cinema of Poetry”
A scene that could be qualified as a moment of Pasolinian Cinema of Poetry is the scene in which the Italian survivors watch through a window the Russian family who gave them food to eat. Uncertain about their journey and about the fate of their own families, in this scene through the deforming glasses of a window this family appears like an unreachable mirage. The deformation and the color of these images tell us about the feelings and desires of these Italian men much more than they could explain with words by themselves.
An article about Primo Levi’s death/suicide
A web site about Primo Levi’s literary works
Resnais’ poetic documentary about the Holocaust Nuit et Bruillard (1955, in French with English subtitles)
Marcus, Millicent. “Francesco Rosi’s The Truce.” After Fellini: National Cinema in the Postmodern Age.