Sonntag, 26. Januar 2014

Umberto D. (Vittorio de Sica, 1952)

A pensioned public employee is struggling to survive on a meager pension and tries to keep his dignity and moral values intact while his situation gets more dire by the day.

Although the story takes place in a big city the film is very good at conveying the feeling that Umberto is isolated by his age and his realization that society has no use for him anymore. His landlady is quite the monster - she rules the hallway of her apartment like a bitter queen. It's quite amazing how long Umberto holds on to the apartment, his only confidante is the naive and beautiful maid, who has her share of troubles to keep her position in the household.

(MANY SPOILERS) Sometimes Umberto could come off like a rather stubborn old man it's his agile little dog that keeps the viewer firmly rooted for him. At the end of the film, Umberto tries to give the dog (and his will to live) away, but even than he cannot find a suitable taker. So he decides to take the dog with him when he dies. But suddenly the little creature steps up, feeling the danger and becomes very "human" for a minute.

 The scene starts off with a wide pan, showing Umberto how he crosses the closed barrier and appraoches the tracks.
 A closeup of the tingling wires announces the arrival of the train.
Umberto stands and watches. The camera slowly tracks towards him and the music becomes louder and more dramatic.
We can see the train approaching - it is still small, but coming closer very fast.

 His reaction is from a lower angle, making it more dramatic (and closer to the POV of the dog)

 A frontal close-up on the dog shows him struggling, trying to break away from the danger.
At the same time as the locomotive arrives, the dog jumps to the ground and Umberto is confused enough not to throw himself in front of the train.

The train passes and in a fabulous shot, Umberto screams his dog's name through the dust. An astonishing visual moment. The world has turned dark.

The dog stands in the sun, watching his master with something that might be described as benign scorn. Obviously, it's what we'd like to see in the dog's face, but it works extremely well.

Umberto watches the train fade into the distance.  The sun has returned.

In the same wide shot as in the beginning he returns to his dog, who waits at safe distance from the barrier. 


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