The main story revolves around a philanderer Fausto, who goes around flirting with many women, but when he gets one of the young beauties of the town pregnant, is forced by his father into marrying her. The marriage barely brings any change to his womanizing, though his wife continues to ignore the truth till the end.
Apart from this story of infidelity, the movie also takes us momentarily through the lives of Fausto’s friends – Alberto’s sadness over his sister’s affair, Leopoldo’s dreams of becoming a playwright and Moraldo’s thoughtfulness and introspection. Each of these stories are dealt with a beautiful subtlety, always placed in the empty streets of the town during nights or late/very early hours of the day. It is a technique which was used extensively in The Third Man and formed, in my opinion the strongest aspect of the movie.
The movie ends well, with Moraldo leaving the town, bidding farewell to a young boy. This boy perhaps is a younger version of these Vitelloni – happy with his inconsequential work at the station.
It is perhaps coincidental that most of the Italian movies that I have seen are based in coastal towns or somehow feature the sea, there is almost always one scene where the entire town comes out to stare at a glamorous woman and there are lot of voluptuous women chased with bawdy jokes. Perhaps La Notte is an exception where none of these features overtly exist. I really love to watch the sea in these movies, because it is always given the center stage somehow, as if the sea was single-handedly responsible for the shape given to the characters.
There is a good essay on this film by Tom Piazza here.