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The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Movie Review Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1393

Movie Review

Jose Quintero’s film The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) explores many themes. Among the important themes that are covered by the movie are: aging, sexuality, cross-cultural communication, Old World versus New World manners, death, grieving, and romantic love. For the most part, the movie centers on presenting the point of view of the film’s protagonist, Karen Stone (Vivian Leigh). In departing from the perspective of many mainstream films, Quintero chose to concentrate on the experience of a widowed actress who finds a rebirth in life through her carnal affections. The relationship that is presented in the film between Karen Stone and her younger lover, Paolo (Warren Beatty) represents not only the re-animation of Karen’s life after the death of her husband, but a rebirth of romantic vision as a whole. In other words, what Quintero is attempting to do with the film is to symbolize both the attraction and potentially dangerous allure of classical romantic ideals. The feeling of idealization fights to survive in the film as the atmosphere and themes of the film continue to darken. The plot serves as a device for building a sense of suspense and even dread in the audience in order to project the previously mentioned theme of romantic idealism.

One of the most important aspects of the relationship between Karen Stone and Paolo is that their relationship inverts two of the most commonly associated ideas with romantic idealism: youth and objectified femininity. In the case of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, it is a woman approaching fifty who experiences a surge of romantic idealism. It is also the case that her young lover exists mainly as an objectification of her romantic urges. Just by changing these two common conventions, the author of the original novel on which the movie is based, Tennessee Williams, offers an opportunity for the audience to reconsider their established ideas about the nature of human love. It is also a prod for the audience to reconsider their ideas about basic human happiness.

In daring to hope for a true lover so late in life, after already being married, and being a foreigner in Rome, Karen Stone represents, symbolically, the “foolishness” of idealism, but she also represents that fact that the yearning for love and erotic pleasure is not dependant on age and is,. in fact, a root aspect of the experience of being human. Lust and love are life. The fact that Paolo is objectified, as in the scene when he enters Karen Stone’s bedroom with his jacket over one shoulder, looking like a pure Gigolo, helps to universalize the film’s themes of life, lust, and ambition. Both of the characters are involved with deep lust: whether it be for money, for sex, or for love itself. The film attempts to dramatize through its plot which begins with physical lust and ends with emotional love that the two ideals are connected.

By daring and compelling the audience to identify with a non-traditional character in an exotic land who engages in a series of increasingly idealistic romantic scenes, the film challenges and invites the viewer to experience a vicarious surge of hope. The feeling that Karen Stone can find a new direction for her life that is infused with passion is undercut by the foreboding sense that Paolo might be dangerous or even lethal. Such are the hazards of any form of hope of romantic idealization whether those feelings be shown through a dramatization of human passion or through the concrete expression of the Roman architecture that fleshes out the theme of the film in every stunningly beautiful scene of this highly-visual film. The basic motion of the  plot, imagery, and characters of the movie is meant to mirror the motion of life itself: an experience that always seems to hover between fulfillment and terror, and betwen meaning and ambiguity.  The film should be understood as an inquiry into the nature of lust and passion and human love rather than as a verdict on the ultimate “meaning” of these things. What The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone tries to do si to embody the same sense of suspense and idealized hope that is traditionally understood to be a profound part of youth and to express this theme in a more universal way, one that cuts across gender, culture, and age barriers.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria

The film, The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) offers a combination of comedy and political statement. The film’s director, Stanley Kramer, fused the idea of freedom and fascism by utilizing the central symbol of wine as a sacrament of social cohesion. In the film, the protecting of a million bottles of wine by Italo Bombolini (Anthony Quinn), the mayor of Santa Vittoria, should be viewed as the symbolic protection of Italian tradition and of the populist will to freedom. The true “secret” of the film is the passion and verve of the Italian people that is able to resist the oppressive grip of both Mussolini and Hitler’s fascist states. The film draws a basic line between the warmth and sociality of the townspeople and the selfish and domineering Germans, led by     Sepp Von Prum (Hardy Krüger). This basic conflict forms the heart of the film’s plot . It also forms the primary basis of the film’s theme. That theme is that the “wine” of populism exists everywhere, even in the heart of a fascist. What the film successfully captures is the humanism that lies beneath cultural and materialistic conflict.

Nowhere is the theme of the film made more explicit than in the scene where Bambolini and VonPrum meet near the town’s fountain with the entire town gathered. The scene as a whole can be read as a forthright statement of the way in which a universal sense of humanity triumphs over oppression and greed. As the scene opens, VonPrum walks stiffly out toward where the townspeople are gathered. he adjusts his gun-belt and straightens his uniform looking very much a regimented soldier of the Reich. As he walks out, two soldiers in the background are furling a Nazi flag. This image foreshadows the Nazi departure from the town and also shows how the scene between VonPrum and Bombolini will  play out. The facade of fascism gives way to the shared sense of humanity that exists beneath the surface. Von Prum walks down a “gauntlet” of the townspeople. All types of people are gathered: young and old, man, woman, and child. It is as though as VonPrum walks down the gauntlet of people he becomes part of the social microcosm and his inner humanity is brought out.

Because many people probably do not expect a comedic movie to convey such important themes, it is important to study individual scenes such as the one mentioned above very closely. The film is intended not only to shine a light on the sense of universal humanity that is symbolized by the people of Santa Vittoria and the wine, but to show how the Italian social order differed from the German social order despite the common bond of fascism. The way that the Italian people are represented in the film starkly suggests that they Italian people inherently rejected fascism. At the same time the Nazis in the film are presented, at first, as being thoroughly indoctrinated into a fascist philosophy and a fascist obedience to orders. However, as the film progresses, the Germans are revealed to have an inherent resistance to fascism and blind obedience. Since they had been represented throughout the rising action of the film as dangerous and potentially lethal fanatics, the climax of the movie enables the intrinsically optimistic theme of the film to emerge with a lot of impact.

The comedic impact of the movie is in the way that this realization is shown to the audience throughout the rising conflict and ultimate resolution of the conflict. Because the conflict over the wine escalates to the point where the Germans threaten to kill Bombolini, the ultimate decision of VonPrum to regain his humanity comes as a relief and surprise to the audience. The release of tension is directly connected to the audience finally seeing that the Germans are, after-all, just regular people. the common bond that exists between all people must be discovered in order to end violence and the threat of violence not only between individual people but between cultures and nations.

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