La Terra Trema

Visconti's masterpiece of austere lyricism was shot in the Sicilian village of Aci Trezza. There, fishermen are kept in poverty by middle-class wholesalers. The Valastro family, led by the impassioned young N'toni, attempts to overcome this oppression and is ostracized in an ancient community, where the elders are content to complain about their exploitation in knowing proverbs, and the young think they can bargain a future. In a famous scene, N'toni leads the workers in hurling the wholesalers' scales into the sea. All the roles are enacted by inhabitants of the village, who eloquently portray their lives for the camera and speak in their Sicilian dialect. In poetic contrast to the spontaneity of their smiles and their rhythms is Visconti's Eisensteinian clarity, as sparkling as sardines in a nighttime sea. His careful arrangement of shots captures a dialectic of timelessness and the moment expressed in the proverb, “Said the worm to the stone, I'll bore a hole through you yet.”

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