A sweeping, majestic, sensuous epic of a film, running for just over three hours, and based on the novel by Count Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard charts the effects of the Italian unification movement (the Risorgimento) on a family of Sicilian aristocrats. Burt Lancaster, in what would initially seem a surprising role, plays one of the island’s noblest families, who is forced to come to terms with the rise of the nouveau riche and the merchant class, symbolised by Don Calogero, a shrewd novus homo landowner in Salina’s fiefdom, the village of Donnafugata. Lancaster is truly excellent, simultaneously imbued with gravitas, charm and humour. The film is beautifully shot, and it concentrates on the atmosphere of the period, showcasing the rugged but stunning countryside, and portraying the abject squalor of many of its inhabitants, contrasted with the opulence of the aristocratic lifestyle. The Prince’s dashing young nephew, Tancredi (played by Alain Delon) proves himself a success story in the new Italy, fighting alongside Garibaldi on behalf of the House of Savoy, seeking to unify Italy under King Vittorio Emanuele. He falls in love with Don Calogero’s daughter, the drop-dead gorgeous Angelica (Claudia Cardinale). Visconti, the film’s director, was a committed Marxist despite his aristocratic background, and this paradox runs as a vein through the film in the confrontation between poverty and wealth, young and old, Bourbon and Savoyard.
ARCHIVE: 4th week TT 2003