Umberto D: Authenticity at its core

                                                                                                                   December 16, 2018

Heartwarming, raw, and real- this motion picture is timeless. 


By Charmaine Quizon

Director: Vittorio De Sica
Screenplay: Cesare Zavattin
Release Date: 20 January 1952 (Italy); 7 November 1955 (USA)
Running time: 89 minutes

       One classic movie whose lead character is portrayed by a non-professional actor is a masterpiece worth to watch. We credit Umberto D to the neorealist movement that popularized characters played by ordinary folks, which location is in real-world setting and aims to manifest the reality of various societal problems. Umberto D is an epitome of this movement. This is a slice of life that reflects truth and reality. The film’s authenticity shall surely melt your heart.

       Group of retired men in advanced years restlessly marching towards the government office and demanding for an increase on their pension are impeded and dispersed by apathetic police officers. Umberto Domenico Ferrari is amidst them, our protagonist. This is how the film began. And that particular scene brings sudden surge of sympathy to Umberto compelling audience to know him more and his dignified character.

       This film was released in 1952 under the direction of an award-winning neorealist Vittorio De Sica and screenplay is by Cesare Zavattin. The dyad makes a great team as seen in their previous collaboration with other brilliant films such as Sciuscià in 1946 (Shoeshine), Ladri di biciclette in 1948 (The Bicycle Thief), and Miracolo a Milano in 1951 (Miracle in Milan).

       To get amused or get inspired is why I gaze on the screen. And I utterly experienced both in the film Umberto D. This motion picture is one-of-a-kind. It is not just a story of an aged man with no to little means to sustain his daily needs. It is far more than an emotional experience. It is a story of amity without conditions, not in human-centric way but with an animal. He is Flike, a dog. The film’s narrative of reality is without presumptions. The shots are seamless. Although the protagonist is in a seemingly grief-stricken situation with nobody to aid him, he tries to stay focused on coming up with resolution to his dilemma. Spectators could certainly relate to Umberto Domenico Ferrari’s character. You may not be lacking money but once in your life, you had an impediment that seemed daunting but you still choose to remain positive because that is human nature after all-to never give up amidst all the difficulty. Umberto as played by a non-professional actor benefits the movie. Carlo Battisti, in real life, was a professor of Linguistic. His raw acting performance is believable. Some of his scenes have no dialogue involved but only action. His eyes speak what no words could utter. Even in the most distressing part of his life, he refused to depend and beg. What a dignity to take pride, or is it? His respectable character is more important for him than his needs.

       The movie possesses the defining feature of neorealism- the on-location shooting. This adds to the experience we could get in the movie. Most scenes were shot on the street and in an old apartment. The film is not limited to Umberto’s problem. His friend Maria, a maid, also faces a predicament. She might be kicked out from her job if Antonio Belloni, the landlady, learns her pregnancy plus her struggle of knowing who the father might be of her child. Yet, this film is not all drama. It also has some amusing part- the ones with Flike in it. Flike, his friend. His character symbolizes dogs’ loyalty to their master. When he starts to fetch and stand on his hind legs, it cheers up Umberto’s character. Here, we visualize a role pets play, a companion to their masters.

       And oh, the last part is exceptional. Just when you thought you had enough on Flike’s loyalty to Umberto when he was found under the footbridge, the next scene is overwhelming. The fear Flike showed is authentic. He squirms in dread and his eyes are captivating.

       This film induces emotion you’d never think to experience. It’s a sure great movie to watch. It may be old but gold.


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