Le Notti Bianche (1957)

Le Notti Bianche, or White Nights, is a dark yet passionate film about love, loneliness, and sacrifice.

A young man and woman, Mario and Natalia, meet by chance one night as Mario is strolling the streets of their small village. The artificiality of the sets and casual nature of their acquaintance misleads the viewer into believing this will be a typical girl-meets-boy romance; wrong.

As Natalia describes herself and her life, her obsessive tendencies and year worth of pining over another love are quickly revealed. The obsession goes both ways, though, as Mario repeatedly turns down other attractive, eligible women in favor of Natalia, someone he convinces himself he has a future with.

The story takes some very surprising, sometimes horrifying, turns and the ending is far from what I’d expected. In addition to the engaging narrative, though, Le Notte Bianche is very well made. It’s interesting to see how different aspects of the characters come out through their actions.

For instance, we learn that Mario used to be in the military and now moves around without forming genuine human connection. Scenes later, several military men and their girls enter a cafe and immediately start slow dancing; it takes a while for Mario to ask Natalia to dance, reinforcing his tentative efforts to pursue romance.

The story itself is truly compelling, but little touches like that are what make this film so fascinating to watch. Repeat viewings will surely heighten the visceral, passionate experience that is Le Notte Bianche.

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