A mother and her five sons move to Milan from the poor South, where the family disintegrates after the amorous encounter of the eldest Simone with the prostitute Nadia.
In this amazing film the brothers seem to stand for different moral and ambitious aspects of the post-war generation of Italian men. Simone, the oldest, has success the quickest but he is hindered by his own recklessness and his inability to understand his or other's emotions. Rocco is a romantic and nostalgic dreamer, trying to uphold his image of the family. Vincenzo is forced to marry due to pregnancy – and quickly is left out of the story after the event. Ciro stands for the ambitious, but still underachieving worker that becomes a mechanic and has something of a career.
Only the youngest, Luca, still has his paths open and I assumed that the film concludes with him
having to find his own way, trying to decide which of his brothers should be his role model.
One scene touched me more than others and I wanted to take a closer look at the mise-en-scene.
Nina who has fallen in love with Rocco has been raped by her former lover Simone. Rocco, on the other hand, has told her to go back to Simone and that they could never meet again.
The scene is set in a small apartment, where the men play poker in one room and women and couples have drinks and chat in the other. This is the first(?) encounter of Nina and Simone after the rape. Although she hates him, he kisses her and it seems at the end that they are a couple again. The viewer is left questioning Nadia's character and will power.
I find it most astonishing how Visconti makes his characters move around in the scene. Nadia seems to dance amongst them all, jumping from one character to the next. She seems to lure the dumbstruck Simone into her corner. Simone moves slow and seems struck down pretty heavily when he enters the room the first time. So, in a way the room also represents a boxing ring, but it's Nadia against Simone. She loses the match and Simone believes that he has regained control over her.
Although her purpose in this provocation is unclear at this point in the film, Visconti wanted to show with this setup that Nadia is very well aware of her actions.