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Before the Revolution: Plot Summary and Analysis

Diving into the heart of mid-20th century Italy, this film skillfully entwines personal passion, political conviction, and societal norms, presenting a rich tapestry of human emotion and ideological struggle. Here, we journey through a world where love dances with politics, ideals clash with realities, and personal battles echo larger societal tensions.

In the first part of our discussion, we will unravel the plot of this complex film, inviting you into the protagonist Fabrizio’s world of fervent political commitment, romantic entanglement, and ensuing disillusionment. As we traverse this narrative landscape, we’ll encounter not just the tale of a young man’s internal conflict, but also a profound reflection of a society on the brink of upheaval.

“Before the Revolution” (Prima della rivoluzione) is a 1964 Italian drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, set in Parma, Italy. This masterpiece is noted for its fusion of the personal and the political, a signature style of Bertolucci.

Here is a brief synopsis of the film (Spoiler Alert!):

“Before the Revolution” tells the story of Fabrizio, a young, passionate, and politically committed man from a bourgeois background in Parma. His political ideals are drawn from the far-left revolutionary principles, and he looks forward to a potential revolution. He detests the hypocrisy and mediocrity of his bourgeois milieu and dreams of a society founded on equity and justice. Fabrizio is deeply influenced by his Marxist professor Cesare, who mentors him about political commitment and the inevitability of the revolution.

fabrizio before the revolution

However, Fabrizio’s life takes a sudden turn when he falls in love with his beautiful young aunt, Gina. Their clandestine relationship engrosses him, and he begins to drift away from his revolutionary ideology. Gina represents all that he despises – the bourgeois decadence, yet he can’t resist her allure. This internal contradiction tears at Fabrizio and presents him with a complex emotional and moral conflict.

GINA Fabrizio before the revolution

As their relationship evolves, Fabrizio faces a further dilemma when Cesare unexpectedly renounces his own revolutionary beliefs, considering them too utopian. With his mentor’s ideology faltering, Fabrizio becomes disillusioned and begins to question his own belief system.

The movie ends with Fabrizio choosing to embrace his bourgeois life, marrying his long-time fiancée Clelia, and abandoning his revolutionary aspirations – a decision symbolizing the broader political disappointment of the period.

before the revolution clelia

“Before the Revolution” thus presents an intimate portrayal of personal and political turmoil, reflecting on the complexities of youth, ideology, and bourgeois decadence in mid-20th century Italy.

Delving deeper into the plot analysis of “Before the Revolution,” the film is a remarkable blend of politics, romance, and psychological intricacies that may not be straightforward to every viewer. Bertolucci weaves a complex narrative that is as much about societal upheaval as it is about personal struggle and conflict.

The title “Before the Revolution” is metaphorical, alluding to a period of anticipation, turmoil, and transformation – both in the broader sociopolitical context and within Fabrizio’s personal life. The Revolution here symbolizes not just the political revolution Fabrizio envisions but also a personal revolution within his heart and mind.

A significant point of potential confusion for viewers might be the relationship between Fabrizio and Gina, which is both romantic and deeply symbolic. This seemingly incestuous affair could shock some audiences, but it represents the tension between Fabrizio’s idealistic politics and the seductive comfort of his bourgeois existence. Gina’s character embodies the decadence and allure of the bourgeoisie that Fabrizio initially detests but eventually surrenders to.

Fabrizio’s disillusionment following Cesare’s ideological renouncement might also confuse some viewers, as it seems to be a sudden shift. However, Cesare’s change symbolizes the crisis of leftist politics during that time – mirroring the broader disillusionment and disappointment in the promise of political revolution. Fabrizio’s subsequent abandonment of his revolutionary beliefs signifies a personal defeat but also reflects the broader sociopolitical reality of the period.

Another point of ambiguity is the film’s ending, where Fabrizio seems to capitulate to the bourgeois lifestyle he once criticized. However, this ending is a commentary on the complex relationship between personal beliefs and societal norms, and how the latter often triumphs. Fabrizio’s decision to marry Clelia and live a bourgeois life is not so much a personal choice as it is an acceptance of the status quo – a theme common in many works examining political idealism versus the constraints of society.

“Before the Revolution” is a film layered with political and personal symbolism, where personal narratives reflect larger societal struggles. It offers a challenging, multifaceted exploration of revolutionary idealism and the realities of personal and societal change. As such, it may require viewers to look beyond the surface plot and engage deeply with its symbolic and thematic undertones.

As we conclude our exploration of Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Before the Revolution,” we hope that this deep dive into the film’s plot and analysis has provided you with a richer understanding of its intricate narrative tapestry. This iconic masterpiece, with its interplay of personal and political themes, is a testament to the transformative power of cinema and its capacity to mirror societal and emotional complexities.

Yet, the beauty of such a film lies not only in its layers of meaning but also in the diverse interpretations it can inspire. We have offered our analysis, but the magic of cinema is that it resonates with each viewer in unique ways. Perhaps there are elements we have not touched upon, or maybe our interpretation differs from yours. If so, we encourage you to share your thoughts and insights.

Did our blog illuminate the film for you or bring up new questions? Were there parts of the film that still left you confused or intrigued? Are there certain symbols or themes you interpreted differently? Your perspective enriches the dialogue about this complex masterpiece, and we welcome your input. Leave a comment below to share your comments, or any points you would like further clarification on.

Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci was an Italian film director and screenwriter. He was born on March 16, 1941, in Parma, Italy, and passed away on November 26, 2018. Bertolucci was known for his innovative and visually striking filmmaking style. He gained international recognition for directing films such as "The Conformist," "Last Tango in Paris," "1900," "The Last Emperor," and "The Dreamers." "The Last Emperor" won nine Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, solidifying Bertolucci's status as a prominent figure in world cinema. Bertolucci was celebrated for his exploration of complex themes, psychological depth, and his ability to push cinematic boundaries. His films often tackled political, social, and existential issues, and his storytelling was marked by intricate character development and rich visual aesthetics. Throughout his career, Bernardo Bertolucci left an indelible mark on cinema with his unique artistic vision and contributions to the art of filmmaking.

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