I Vitelloni – Federico Fellini

I Vitelloni, like another Fellini movie Amarcord, depicts the life of youth in a provincial Italian town. Like Amarcord, it also takes us through the lives of a few young men in the coastal town of Pescara. These young men, with a characteristic immaturity and irresponsibility, dream of leaving the town and making a big future in the city, but never take a step towards making these dreams a reality. Vitelloni literally means large young calves – an appropriate term for these over-grown men with stunted maturity.

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.

5 thoughts on “I Vitelloni – Federico Fellini

  1. You are right about the sea I think. It is there in La Strada too and the famous last scene of La Dolce Vita is set on the sea-shore too. Also L’Avventura…It captures the feeling of what means to live in small town very well. Life isolated and stuck in time, which is mirrored in their personal life too. they are stuck in their adolescence, unwilling to move on and take responsibilities. That young guy takes the steps but that means going away from home and the people you grew up with. It’s a sad and melancholic story but also very true to life and universal…


  2. Wow what a coincidence! I also happened to catch up “I Vitelloni” over the weekend 🙂 I loved the movie, it liked more than lets say La Strada or even Nights of Cabiria. I love any old italian movie, their old houses, deserted streets, really loud people. If it was not a autobiographical movie, it would not have been so beautiful. I still wonder if such small towns exist in Italy or they have lost their charm to modernization.Also watched another movie “Divorce: Italian Style”. One of the most amazing dark comedy I have watched in recent times!


  3. That’s true – I can find a kind of irresponsible boredom in some of my cousins who chose to stay back in my hometown (which was not even a small hung-in-time town) after school. Those of us who left, perhaps saw a little better of the world, but had to leave home – mostly alone.I loved the movie, and partly also because of the small towns. Vasuki – some of my friends who have traveled to Sicily say that the the provincial look is still there – and have seen a few European towns, I can really believe that. They are incredible when it comes to preserving!And I am dying to watch Divorce: Italian Style since Alok blogged about it.


  4. Having watched Amarcord and La Strada recently, your review just adds to my egarness to watch more of Fellini.And the observation about coastal villages in Italian films is quite right. I suddenly rememberd Cinema Paradiso and how much the setting worked for the film.


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