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Una sfida Posted by on May 2, 2020 in Culture


Today, I have una sfida (a challenge) for all of you.

I have been watching Italian movies almost every night, mostly with a friend through zoom. Have you tried una videochiamata per guardare un film insieme agli amici? ‘Zoomiamoci’ (un gioco di parole..) quantomeno con lo spirito questa settimana.. let’s zoom together at least in spirit this week, this is my challenge to you! But more specifically than that..

The movie Il Conformista (1970) by Bernardo Bertolucci was a film I saw for the first time in an Italian class my last year of undergrad, and I was so absorbed by it. Based on a book by the same name written by Alberto Moravia, the story is set during the Fascist era in Italy and follows the life of Marcello Clerici, a government official in quest of a normal life. (I can’t remember if I also read the book – it’s likely. I read so much at that point in my studies I hardly even remember what exactly I did and did not read anymore..)

My absolute favorite line in the movie is when he’s confessing to a priest, and says “La normalità, voglio costruire la mia normalità – Normalcy, I want to create my normalcy.” These lines are blurred, however, between his view of ‘normalcy’ and what really is ‘conformity’ during this period of the 1930s.

I don’t want to give too much away as I would really like you to watch it and draw your own conclusions. I will tell you that the political themes and underlying message, the Art-Deco style of the 1930s, and the cinematic play with light are the things I love most about this movie. The framing of each shot – really, this is an artistic masterpiece, un capolavoro. I recently re-visited it with my Italian friend during one of our nightly rituals, as he had never seen it. I found myself pausing the movie at one point, noticing the smallest of details that I had never noticed before, and erupting into such a geeked out moment of pure joy. He didn’t even catch it… but I bet you will.

Va bene Bridgette, di cosa si tratta nello specifico questa sfida? 

I want you to watch this movie and listen very closely to the Italian. If you need to watch it with English subtitles, that’s fine, but that leads me to my first suggerimento, or hint…

  1. This detail is not translatable. One of the reasons why watching movies in their original language is so important… there are things that are conveyed in other languages that simply cannot be conveyed the same way in English. How fun is that?!
  2. This detail relates to the overall theme of conformity of the movie. 
  3. There is a political reason for the detail, of which I have talked about in previous blogs. 
  4. This detail can be found in one very specific exchange between characters.

Ready to tackle this sfida, or even just enjoy a sensational film? Here is the link to the movie, where you are able to add subtitles if you so wish by hitting “cc.” :

When you catch it – lasciatemi un commento, leave me a comment! Don’t prematurely look at the comments though if you want to be surprised and try to figure it out yourself. I’ll reveal this little detail next week, and we’ll see who gets it!

Alla settimana prossima allora, in bocca al lupo a tutti voi! 


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About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italo-Francophone. Digital nomad. Gaelophile. Creator of A Polyglot's Inkblot:


  1. Louisa Chapman:

    There is a new novel out called The Orphan of Pitigliano which is available on Amazon and which is set in the 1938 through 1945 period…as well as 30 years later in Boston. But it deals with an Italian hill town called Pitigliano where two families of Jews are fleeing in order to conceal their identities. It is a wonderful historical literary fiction work which involves Etruscan tombs, the malocchio, Jewish survival, revenge and redemption, and a love story that crosses three generations! Definitely, a pulse-pounding page-turner that’s hard to put down and so worth a read!!!!

    • minou:

      @Louisa Chapman Louisa: grazie per la tua raccomandazione di Orphan of Pitigliano! lo leggero’.

  2. Carla:

    I noticed that only “voi” was used and I don’t recall “lei” being used at all for polite form of addressing a person. My parents grew up in Italy when Mussolini was in power and despite our family having immigrated to Canada many years later my parents continued to speak to me in Italian and I remember that whenever they would address people with the polite form they would always use “voi.” I do recall you had mentioned in one of your blogs that Mussolini wanted “voi” to be used and not “ lei.” Now that my parents are gone I don’t get a chance to speak Italian very often but when I do I often revert back to using “voi” instead of “lei” when speaking to someone in a formal situation.
    Thank you for the link to the movie!

    • Bridgette:

      @Carla Hey Carla! Did you just watch the movie for the first time or have you seen it before? What did you think overall? As far as the sfida, I’ll say you are very much on the right path, but not quite there! 🙂 Thanks for the story as well – do you still have family in Italy with whom you can speak or visit?

  3. Gina Bisaillon:

    Yes indeed every frame of this movie is a work of art, and it’s a good thing it moves slowly so one can take it all in. Pure joy!

  4. Andy:

    Grazie del suggerimento non conoscevo questo film e lo ho apprezzato moltissimo! Un grande consiglio!!!
    Purtroppo non sono riuscito a raccogliere la tua sfida. Attendo la soluzione ciao

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