La Terra Trema

| March 8, 2012

La Terra Trema is the kind of film that tests my vocabulary for the medium. It’s absolutely breathtaking in scope and one of the most remarkable Italian Neo-realist films that I’ve come across, but it’s still difficult to talk about. Most people, whether they read the entirety of our reviews or just select highlights, boil it down to “liked it” or “didn’t like it.”

I didn’t like La Terra Trema.

Not because it isn’t well-made or it’s boring. It is neither of those things, truly a feat for a two and a half hour Italian movie from the 1940s. It’s an inspired call to arms for the working class and a surprisingly sentimental expose of the poor conditions that plague the working class. But back to why I didn’t “like” it.

La Terra Trema has the distinct honor of being one of the single most depressing films I’ve ever come across. The realism, particularly the use of non-actors, does amazing things for the film’s message, but rather than inspire, it instills a sense of dread. This isn’t to say that La Terra Trema isn’t a stunning illustration of the power of cinema or it is somehow a “bad” movie. It’s just the kind of movie that it’s difficult for me to say I enjoyed.

I respect the hell out of it. Director Luchino Visconti’s attention to detail and the courage of his convictions makes for an utterly intoxicating neo-realist film. It just isn’t “fun” to watch.

To be fair, those who are more interested in film history will appreciate the importance of this film, its message, and its methods. For those who are much more casual in their movie viewing ways, La Terra Trema will more than likely disappoint.

However, this should not be interpreted as me trying to steer people away from this film. It’s a cinematic landmark and should be treated as such, no matter how difficult its content may be. This is just an acknowledgement that this DVD release may have a somewhat limited following, but I assure you, for film aficianados, La Terra Trema may not be pleasant but it is truly an unforgettable experience: one that defies words.

I think that is what makes La Terra Trema so difficult and so enchanting at the same time. While many films can be boiled down to a 50-word synopsis and “liked” or “disliked,” La Terra Trema is not one of those films. It is something that is felt: something that is experienced. While it may not be enjoyable in the traditional sense of the word, it is a shining example of the power of cinema.

About the Author:

Calhoun Kersten is a down-home North Carolina boy these days, mustache comb and all. Equal parts disarmingly charming and stunningly good looking, he enjoys horror films, nachos, and sharks. If you're interested in more of his depravity, please check out one of his many blogs.
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