Il bidone (1955)

This film’s English title is The Swindle.  It’s directed by Federico Fellini.  By now, I’ve seen about 85 % of Fellini’s films.  Slowly but surely I’ve been accomplishing that goal over the years.

What I like about Fellini is how he presents (and therefore essentially critiques) society and our various approaches to life.  A consistent presentation of such in his films is that of the Catholic church.  While the film does not depict real clergymen, Fellini has his three (and then later four) swindlers pose as clergymen in order to swindle poor rural folks out of their hard-earned money.  I don’t think he intended to present the rural people necessarily as stupid and gullible, but rather the swindlers as taking advantage of the power that the clergy holds over people.  And the clergy-swindle (involving paying for masses in exchange for a box of treasure) occurs in the film multiple times with two sets of swindlers, while the other swindles only happen once (besides the sequence with the gas station incidents, which happen back-to-back).

Another thing I like about Fellini films, in general, is that Fellini gives you an inside look at a particular person (or group of people): their happiness, their sadness, their humiliation, their downfall, etc. 

By the end of the film, however, the viewer is left wondering what the point of all of it was because Augusto certainly doesn’t learn anything from his experiences. Not that the viewer is necessarily expecting the film to express a moral.  But perhaps the point of this film was to point out that Augusto’s life went nowhere:  always had and always would have.    One can only surmise that his eventual downfall was a result of reconnecting with his daughter and promising to help her with money.  And, in the end, it was money that was Augusto’s downfall and no one could HEAR him when he cried for help. 

The ability to hear and effectively communicate is a theme that I’ve studied in Fellini’s La dolce vita.  I won’t go into the gorey details (you can read my M.A. Essay if you want…..)  but suffice it to say that a character’s inability to effectively communicate or hear appears to be something Fellini does intentionally in order to convey his vision about human interactions and understanding.  It’s a beautiful theme to notice in his films and certainly makes them more memorable in terms of Fellini’s craft. 

Augusto didn’t learn anything in the end (because he got himself into a life-threatening situation as a result of his pursuit of money), and he was hurt and crying out for help and no one could hear him.  And that’s what’s so great about Fellini and his films.  Some of his characters learn something about “moving on” and “making a better life” by the end (Cabiria  in Le notti di Cabiria ) and others don’t (Marcello in La dolce vita).  I say this because some people in the real world want to learn from their experiences and not make the same mistakes again.  However, in Marcello’s defense, I think he does learn something:  he perhaps learns how to live in his world of glamour magazines and orgy parties a lot better, rather than running away into the saner world that the little girl Paola represents. 

I think Fellini’s various film worlds and characters represent a reasonable reflection on the real world because some people learn from their mistakes and others do not.  Some people want to better their lives, others do not.  Some people want to be productive members of society and have respectable jobs, others do not.  And that’s okay.  It takes a lot of people to make such a diverse world.  Life would be infinitely boring if we were all bankers and aristocrats and little girls working at seaside restaurants.  We need swindlers, whores, and leaches like gossip columnists and Paparazzo to keep the world from becoming a homogeneous bore.  It’s those people that Fellini makes films about, and I like it.

The last thing I’ll say about this film is that the sound was a little annoying in places.  And, by that, I mean that there was an overwhelming racket, especially during the party scene, that either was a fault or something intentional in order to discombobulate.  The viewer expects some loudness but it was truly overwhelming.  My suspicion is that whoever prepared/remastered the DVD didn’t pay attention to sound levels.

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