The origin of The Conformist starts with Carlo Rosselli. Roselli was a major political figure in the anti-Fascist movements in Italy, Paris, and in the Spanish Civil War. He founded the anti-Fascist movement Giustizia e Liberta or Justice and Freedom. On June 9, 1937 while visiting the French resort town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, he was murdered by French Fascists. Rumor had it that Mussolini and the Italian government had the murder orchestrated. Carlo Rosselli was novelist Albert Moravia’s cousin.
Living under the Fascist regime, Moravia’s work was scrutinized and mostly banned. He and his wife, Elsa Morante, fled to Capri until the war ended. In 1951, he published The Conformist, an examination of a public official struggling with normalcy in the Italian Fascist regime as he must betray his past professor, an anti-Fascist activist. Moravia no doubt had the gangland-style slaying of Rosselli on his mind when writing his most celebrated novel.
Following his return to Italy after the war, Moravia’s fame skyrocketed. He became a world-renown author, having his works translated across the globe, and in the 1960s his works began to be adapted into films such as Vittorio de Sica’s Two Women (1960), Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963), and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970).
The Conformist was the film that put Bernardo Bertolucci at the forefront of global filmmaking. He translated Moravia’s stark prose into rich, expressionistic images shot by revered cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Last Tango in Paris). Bertolucci set out to adapt the novel without having read it. He quickly diverted from the omniscient and linear fashion of the novel and created a non-linear structure with an unreliable narrator.
The film was an instant hit in Europe and America, so much so that one is hard-pressed to find an American film in the ‘70s not influenced by it. Even by today’s standards period pieces continue the visual tradition of The Conformist.
- Greggory Day
Last month, The Authors & Auteurs Book Club discussed The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
Henry James was not known as a horror writer, but he returned more than once from Victorian melodrama to dabble in the supernatural. The Turn of the Screw stands among the best in the genre. No objective, rationale perspective waits to explain exactly what has transpired in Bly House. No need. James’ pen makes the possibility of a haunting or a wild decay into madness so intimately close we not interested in dissecting them.
In the past hundred years, the novella has inspired many adaptations. Jack Clayton’s 1961 film The Innocents takes from both the source and a stage adaption of same name, with a script polished by none other than Truman Capote. The result was a period horror film utilizing the staggering resources of 20th Century Fox and one of the greatest British actresses of the day, Deborah Kerr – not to mention, two of the eeriest children ever put on celluloid.
- Chris H.
The Authors & Auteurs Book Club will be screening The Conformist on Sunday, December 6th at 4pm on BookPeople’s third floor, followed by a discussion of the novel and the film. Come in today and pick up a copy, it’s 10% off the cover price at the checkout.