Precious Bodily Fluids

The Leopard

Veiled from the outset

Veiled from the outset

The same year as the previous post’s film was released (, in 1963) Luchino Visconti adapted to the screen The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), the novel by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. Was looking forward to the film, having just finished reading the novel. Di Lampedusa’s book is epic in small scope, a personal account of a man growing old and outdated. The story gives the reader the impression of being in the mind of Prince Fabrizio, with access to all his thoughts and feelings and that kind of immediately-forgiving perspective that comes from being witness to one’s own weaknesses and failures. It must be admitted that a novel is slightly more conducive than film to this kind of intimacy, although master filmmakers have succeeded in making very personal films, even without first-person narration. It’s hard not to think of a character such as Michael Corleone in the film sculptor’s hands of Francis Ford Coppola. For all of Luchino Visconti’s reputation as one of the great neorealist directors of Italy, The Leopard feels very much like a genre imitation of the American epic/Western, replete with a very Technicolor color palate, extreme wide angle shots, panoramic scenery, and that sense of overal gaudiness that probably existed in 1860s Sicily but detracts from a film focused around an individual. Only in the film’s final act does Visconti go to pains to get into the psyche of Fabrizio, the Leopard. By then it seems too late, or it seems as if he’s tired not so much from the life that has preceded the film but by the short segment of his life that the film depicts. Di Lampedusa’s novel begins with a tired prince whose days of glory are drawing nigh. One realizes that the film is under no obligation to imitate the novel. And it is interesting to consider a film like this next to contemporaries such as Fellini’s aforemtioned and Antonioni’s L’Eclisse. These films, which happen to be in black and white, personally and impersonally focus on alienation and the world’s failure to deliver what it promises to the successful and affluent. Fabrizio has succeeded at least as well as Fellini’s and Antonioni’s characters, but the film has him walking away pitifully, tail between his legs, as if the audience should feel sorry for him. It’s an unappealing thought to protrude one’s lower lip for the sake of someone who has everything in the world. In the novel, the Leopard is allowed to grow old with a sense of gracefulness, even as he knows the dead end that will meet him at the end of his life. He rejects pity from those closest to him and maintains respect, not bitterness, for those whose futures are bright. This isn’t a case of another film that didn’t measure up to the book, but one character presented in a much more compelling way than another. Finally, Burt Lancaster, this one wasn’t for you.


This entry was published on February 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm. It’s filed under 1960s Cinema, Italian film and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “The Leopard

  1. I looove the nove,; however, I did love the film, too, although it’s very different. It’s a different way of treating the subject. It’s a masterpiece for me 😛

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