Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 8th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, May 12th, 1964
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci, Gianni Amico
Cast: Evelina Alpi, Gianni Amico, Adriana Asti, Cecrope Barilli, Francesco Barilli
DVD released: 2003
Approximate running time: 115 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mono
DVD Release: RHV
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (Italy)
Retail Price: $26.95
Fabrizio’s bourgeois background clashes with his Marxist ideology and his faith in the communist movement dwindles when his friend Agostino dies of an apparent suicide. At his darkest moment of doubt Fabrizio’s aunt Gina arrives in Parma and what starts out as a friendship quickly evolves into a love affair. To complicate matters even more Fabrizio is engaged to marry Clelia whose family’s wealth is in direct contrast to Fabrizio’s Marxist ideology. Torn between two women will Fabrizio choose a life of luxury with Clelia or will he continue his forbidden love with his aunt Gina?
Before the Revolution is part autobiographical and it is also loosely based on Stendhal’s “The Charterhouse of Parma”. Director Bernardo Bertolucci would return to his roots with his 1964 film Before the Revolution which takes place in the city where he spent most of his youth Parma. The semi-autobiographical tone makes this Bernardo Bertolucci’s most personal film of his career. Bernardo Bertolucci who began his artistic journey as a poet and one of his early mentors was Pier Paolo Pasolini whose influence can be felt in the early part of Bertolucci’s career as a filmmaker.
Before the Revolution starts off slowly and then once the character of Gina is introduced into the mix everything starts to fall into place. The story’s overall narrative is not this films strongest assets and at times the story does become tedious. Before the Revolution is one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen and it is mostly because of its visual splendors which drive home the overall message Bertolucci is trying to convey. Besides Bertolucci’s inspired direction the acting is also very strong who at the time was a relative unknown who had never acted before does a superb job as the disenchanted Fabrizio. My favorite performance in the film would be without a doubt that of Adriana Asti as Fabrizio’s aunt Gina. She also gets one of the best scenes in the film when she wakes up in a strange room and calls someone on the phone wanting them to come take her home. This scene is claustrophobic and it perfectly sums up the desperation that engulfs every aspect of Gina’s life.
One of this films main themes in the love affair that develops between Fabrizio and his aunt Gina. Bertolucci has spent his career working with controversial and in many cases taboo themes and in Before the Revolution he handles the illicit affair innocently. Ennio Morricone who at the time was relatively unknown provides yet another flawless score that perfectly captures the mood of the film. The film also uses music from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Bernardo Bertolucci has spent his whole career making colorful films that explore the darker side of humanity. Before the Revolution contains everything that we have come to except when watching a Bertolucci film and then some.
Before the Revolution is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The contrast levels are dead on as there is an exceptional amount of detail present in every frame. The black levels remain constant through out with blacks that are deep and rich in texture. Grain is kept to a minimum and there are no problems with compression or artifacts. Overall a lot of work has been put into this transfers that is nearly flawless outside a few minor instances of print damage.
This DVD offers two audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital mono mixes both are in the films original native language Italian. Dialog is crisp and easy to understand. The music and effects are evenly balanced. The main differences between the two audio mixes is the Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds more spread out while the Dolby Digital mono mix sounds at times a bit claustrophobic. Removable English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
Besides restoring the audio/video for this release RHV have put together an impressive selection of extras that are spread over two DVD’s. The first DVD comes with the following extras the films original theatrical trailer in Italian with no subtitles and a gallery of stills. Other extras include a brief four minutes segment titled “Cinema D’Oggi” which includes behind the scenes footage from the set of Before the Revolution as well as comments about the film from Bernardo Bertolucci. Rounding out the extras for disc one is a fourteen minute featurette titled “Effetti Personali” which includes clips from Before the Revolution that are inter-cut with the same actors twenty years later reciting their dialog from the films at the locations in which the scenes had original been filmed.
The bulk of the extras for this release are contained on disc two and they mostly consist of interviews which are broken down into sub sections. The first collection of interviews is titled “Traveling Companions” and it includes interviews with Enzo Siciliano, Adriano Apra and Giovanni Bertolucci. The next interview is titled “Self Portrait” over the course of forty six minutes Bernardo Bertolucci discusses in depth Before the Revolution. This interview is the most fascinating of all the interviews included on this DVD. The next set of interviews is titled “Gina and Fabrizio” in which Adriana Asti and Francesco Barilli discuss the characters they played in the film. Another collection of interviews is titled “The Workshop of the Young Masters” which includes interviews with Before the Revolution crew members Roberto Perpignani, Vittorio Storaro and Ennio Morricone. The next collection of interviews is titled “Re-Readings” which includes interviews with Francesco Casetti, Giovanna Grignaffini and Lucilla Albano. The final collection of interviews is titled “After the Revolution” which includes interviews with directors’ Marco Tullio Giordana and Marco Bellocchio. Rounding out the extras is a thirty minute featurette titled “Variations by the Author” which shows over the duration of this featurette several before and after examples of the restoration work that went into this DVD transfer. Amazing over the course of all the interviews’ which run nearly one hundred and sixty minutes in length there is no overlapping of information.
Rarely does a DVD come along that deserves the title definitive version and in the case of RHV’s Before the Revolution DVD they have put together an impressive release that truly deserves the title of definitive edition, highly recommended.