Sunday, July 17, 2011
I'm usually not too in love with Italian neorealism, but this film was amazing. It was so quiet and sad, but so incredibly beautiful and moving to watch. It was really hard to watch it after I was in such a good mood from a fun day, but I'm still glad that I did. Just because it's often terribly sad doesn't make it a bad movie - and in my book, it makes it an amazing movie. I always think that it's pretty easy for movies to thrill or shock us, but it's harder to make people truly feel difficult emotions. Umberto D managed to do that for me, and I really loved it.
The movie is about Umberto Domenico Ferrari, an old man living on a meager pension. It's not even enough for him to pay for a small room for himself and his adorable dog, Flike. His land lady, who is awful, wants to evict him, even though he is trying to pay back money he owes to her. Faced with even more poverty, and possible homelessness, Umberto becomes depressed. He becomes desperate, trying to stay in a hospital even though he's not sick, pulling off little schemes to get extra free food to eat, things like that. He won't lose his dignity, though, and feels shamed by what he has to do. He entertains the idea of begging, but cannot bring himself to do it. As pressures grow and he finds less and less ways to try to cope with his situation, Umberto starts to seriously consider suicide.
That sounds more depressing than the movie actually is. It's sad, but it doesn't try to be. The director doesn't try to milk anything for tears - he just turns the camera onto these non-actors and lets them tell a story. It's very honest and direct, and I appreciated that style a lot here. It might have been impossible to watch if it tried to be melodramatic about everything, instead of just simply accepting.
Much of this comes from the character of Umberto, who just accepts his difficult situation. We have lots of movies about people working hard to overcome obstacles, or fighting against the system once it betrays them. This movie is so much different than that - Umberto isn't interested in trying to fight against anyone or anything. He knows it won't really help, realistically. He just tries to do what he can, to try to think of a solution, and then when there isn't one, he calmly considers his next option.
The movie deals with some dark ideas, but don't get me wrong - this movie is not without hope. It has a pretty optimistic ending - it just bluntly shows how one man reacts to a really terrible situation that he honestly cannot do much about. It's realistic, however painful that might be to watch. Sadly, though, this is often the case with real life. I like movies that acknowledge that, and that can tap into more uncomfortable feelings. That's hard to do! Back on subject, it's hard for me to write about sad movies because I know so many people just automatically write them off for being sad. This movie isn't all sad, and it's actually optimistic at the end. It's too important and wonderful of a movie to just dismiss because we want to watch something that is all pleasant all the time.
It's a beautiful film, and I loved the characters. I found it really poignant that Umberto is so close with his dog Flike. He has trouble dealing with issues in his own life, and hates that his dog could suffer because of him. When he is considering suicide, he tries to find places for Flike to stay, but the dog won't leave his side. The dog also gives him hope, because it's love is unconditional. It doesn't care that Umberto can't pay his bills, or might have to beg on the street. It just loves, and Umberto can't help but love him back. I really could relate to this part of the film. I know how Nikita can turn my mood around when I'm upset, or have had a bad day. I might feel like no one understands what I'm going through, but she's always there, nudging up to me and reminding me that I'm ok.
I want to just keep writing, but it's seriously so late right now. I just loved this movie. Too often movies that deal with sad topics just become melodrama to try to force more emotion out of you. Umberto D can't be bothered to that. It just tells a really fascinating and real story, and it doesn't try to play anything up just to get a reaction. I loved the realism, both in the film and the very real emotions that it drew from me. I didn't feel like I was being manipulated to react in some way or another, so I felt my emotions were genuine. I really loved Umberto, and I loved Flike. I wanted so badly for things to work out for them, and I felt his despair so strongly. Everything is filmed wonderfully, and shot with non-actors, which I didn't even realize until I was reading Ebert's essay - they felt so perfect for their roles and seemed to draw out so many feelings from me that I never once doubted that they weren't professional. It's an incredible film, and one of the best that I've seen in a while. I really hope you give this movie a chance, it is simply stunning.
Have any thoughts on Umberto D? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Umberto D
Buy it on Amazon