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'La Balia' in Hollywood

Updated on September 18, 2011

In Marco Bellocchio’s La Balia there are so many elements that are undeniably that of Italian cinema. A lot of the movie reflects the techniques and elements of the Neorealist era. The slow moving plotline, the problems addressed, the lighting and right down to the very ambiguous ending scream neorealism. All of this authenticity would have been lost had the big shot Hollywood producers gotten a hold of this story. In many ways, the fundamentals of Hollywood movies would have changed Bellocchio’s intent for this movie.

For one, the lighting would have been completely different. Though Hollywood would use authentic lighting for the time period being portrayed, they also would have a lighting crew to help keep a lot of the film out of the dark. There were so many scenes in which it was hard to see the actions or expressions of the actor that would not have helped this movie in Hollywood. The mystery would drive an average American audience insane to the point they would call the movie a flop.

And if the lighting did not turn off the Americans, the place of the plot would. The plot would have been sped up. There would have been no time to breath. Hollywood likes to push, with momentum, to the climax. A lot of Bellocchio’s script would have been cut or changed in the hands of a Hollywood production company. Some scenes that would have been cut were the interactions with the wife after leaving her family because of her jealousy towards Annette. Instead, she would have either committed suicide or never been heard from again because of her inadequacy as a mother. Some scenes that would have been changed were the ones between Mori and Annette. Their interactions would have blossomed into a love story. There would have been a passionate love-making scene.

With the addition of the love story to the American made version of this film, the ending would have left the audience with more closure. One thing to say about Americans is that they do not like dealing with other people’s problems. That being said, when a movie ends with no real resolution in their eyes, they will get frustrated that the interpretation is left on their shoulders and the movie would never be recommended to anyone. The only solution this movie could have taken to be successful in Hollywood would have been that Mori and Annette lived happily ever after with both of their sons.

But as an Italian movie it could not do any of these things to make the real impact. Had the lighting been up to Hollywood’s standards, sure the audience would see everything better but would that have changed anything in the telling of this story? Absolutely not. The dim lighting has everything to do with the hidden feelings and desires all of the characters have. For Annette it is her desire to learn to write. Once Mori begins to teach her, Bellocchio shows her more in the lighted areas. For Vittoria, it is the desires the letter from Annette’s lover stirred in her. In a way, her leaving the darkness of the house brought her into a new light. And for Mori, it is his lack of understanding. When he is in the insane asylum, it is very light and generic looking. He values the women around him for what they are: insane. At home, it is harder for him to understand how his wife could not love their child or how Annette could love their child so quickly and immensely.

All of this unfolds slowly, as it should. Instead of shoving all of this down the audience’s throat and expecting them to digest it, Bellocchio gives out pieces of the story in a way that is anything but overwhelming. Instead of taking his audience on a rollercoaster ride, like that of a Hollywood film, he chose a more smooth, comfortable route like that of a Ferris wheel. There were ups and downs for each of the characters but nothing was so dramatic that the audience felt its stomach drop.

And although the audience could have left the theater feeling happy, this movie did not warrant a happy ending in the sense that everything tied up nicely. Each character made their own revelations for themselves but there was no need to make amends with each other. Annette could finally stop hiding her son. Vittoria could stop trying to live up to the expectations she had married into. Mori was finally able to understand women enough to be able to write Annette’s response to her jailed lover. Those were the only journeys the characters really needed to take in order to finish the story in Bellocchio’s eyes.

It did not matter that Bellocchio’s approach mirrored the techniques of the past. He chose to tell his story in a certain way while someone else would have done things differently. None of the approaches are neither right nor wrong in the end. The realness of both the story and the characters should hold enough weight to make an audience see the bigger picture. For La Balia, the echoes of Neorealism created a more authentic story than if it had been produced by some big shot Hollywood production company.


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