‘In Italy the dead rule’: Marco Bellocchio’s ‘Italian difference’ between Manzoni–Camerini and Bene–Godard
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© The Author(s) 2014. In his film The Wedding Director (2006), Marco Bellocchio expresses his view of the 'Italian difference' that demarcates this national tradition from others with the refrain 'In Italy the dead rule.' This adage is repeated throughout his film and provides the motivation behind it. For Bellocchio, the dead in question belong primarily, though not solely, to the Italian parochial heritage exemplified by Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed (1840), and in particular by Mario Camerini's film adaptation of the same novel (1941). In The Wedding Director, Bellocchio enacts yet another, albeit eclectic, adaptation of these palimpsests, desecrating them and the values they supposedly stand for. Crowned by a happy ending, The Wedding Director surpasses its targets, advocating for their visual and conceptual inadequacy. This essay analyzes Bellocchio's film using a theoretical approach that I see articulated in two critical texts and four creative instances. Firstly, I analyze The Wedding Director in light of the concepts that Gilles Deleuze used for Carmelo Bene's adaptations of classic works; secondly, through Richard Neer's 2007 reflections on Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma. My analyses result in a dual interpretation of Bellocchio's film. I argue that in The Wedding Director Bellocchio enters into conversation with and implements the ideas of the intellectuals and artists mentioned above. He sets off from the conclusion of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2. Nevertheless, The Wedding Director is also marred by ambiguities that, although perhaps unavoidable, detract from his accomplishments. Those ambivalences involve the issue of gender relations, which - as Bellocchio himself declares - are at the core of his concerns in The Wedding Director. I argue that on the one hand Bellocchio's film is an empowering Deleuzian or Godardian adaptation of Manzoni's source text. On the other, it may also be construed as professing an opportunistic, if not downright cynical, view of gender relations. While the film presents the audience with a principled Deleuzian becoming-minority as a becoming-woman, it nonetheless declines the responsibility of distinguishing victim from perpetrator. By leaving this issue an open question for the audience to decide, the film renders the question ultimately insoluble. The goals that Bellocchio professes and the diagnosis he offers in The Wedding Director are valuable and deserve credit. Without question, the film is a stunning cinematographic feat. However, a self-indulgent streak undercuts the viewer's satisfaction. Unless we surpass irony (as the film attempts), we, regardless of our gender, will hardly be free from the hold of the dead, be they Italian or of any other nationality.
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