The masterpiece of Italian Cinema Monica Vitti
Alessandro Romano – In Balzac’s novel “Sarrasine”, sculptor Sarrasine admires Zambinella so much when he sees her in a theatre that “She was so much more than a woman, she was a masterpiece!” he says, expressing his admiration. That’s why Zambinella has everything she looks for in a person. This is how we can best describe Monica Vitti, who shined like a star from generation to generation during the transition periods of Italy. She was a magic, a spell that successfully interpreted both dramas and comedy, blending her talent with her unique beauty, never changing her unique charm and style, brave, mysterious, revolutionary, rising from the ashes but also causing new births…
When Monica Vitti (Maria Luisa Ceciarelli) opened her eyes to the world on November 3, 1931 in Rome, the world of cinema was also looking for a way out. The country was under a fascist rule. Benito Mussolini chose cinema as a propaganda tool…
When little Monica was 4 years old, concrete steps were being taken for this purpose in the country. After the Italian cinema school called Centro Sperimentale, ‘Cinecitta’ film studios were established as a state monopoly and they started to produce films that would direct the perception of the public in these studios. These films, shot between 1930-1940, which can be described as the golden years of the fascist regime in Italy, aimed to shift the public’s attention away from the oppressive administration and practices, to shift their perceptions towards the rich and ostentatious lives they dreamed of, in short, to put the public to sleep with entertainment. With these pink films shot with a focus on melodrama, comedy or romance, unrealistic lives were propagated and the society was put into escape psychology. Those were the years when Monica was very cold. Everyone at home called him “Setti vistìni” because she was dressing in layers to protect herself from the cold weather.
New realistic movies
Afterwards, the struggle against fascism and the Second World War were reflected in the art world and the winds of Neorealism were starting to blow. An important stance was taken against oppressive government through Neorealism, which began to appear between 1930 and 1940 and reached its peak between 1944 and 1952.
In this period, Italian Neo-Realistic films were starting to be made in response to the exaggerated style of the “White Phone” films. Purpose: To make the audience feel the reality and to make the film look more objective; for this, the cameras were moved to the street; natural light was used; amateur players preferred; Melodramas were set aside; streets of countries damaged after the war joined the cast of characters; while trying to capture the reality of the moment with the camera, actors and actresses were improvising. While struggling with the state, they were producing low-budget works that tried to raise public awareness and show the truth. Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, Gianni Puccini and Cesare Zavattini are the important names of this movement. These names have signed very political, at the same time aesthetic revolutionary films.
Talent was discovered during the war years.
In the years when the Italian Neorealism Movement reached its peak, Monica Vitti first attended the courses of Pittman’s College, then the Academy of Dramatic Art, and graduated in 1953. Vitti, who initially performed in theatres, was approaching the cinema as a voice actor despite her hoarse voice. Vitti’s interest and talent for the theatre were to be discovered during the puppet shows she and her brother gave to those around them when they went down to the shelters to avoid bombs during the Second World War. Then, in 1954, she had her first cinematic experience in the movie “Rider! Rider! Rider” by master director Ettore Scola.
The new political order in the 1960s was also reflected in the cinema, and Italian cinema was on the rise with libertarian works that were far from censorship. The standard features of the names who translated their first feature films in these years are that they followed a particular style from their works. The films in question are Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’avventura”, Luchino Visconti’s “Rocco ei suoi fratelli”, Vittorio De Sica’s “La ciociara” and Roberto Rossellini’s “ They are movies like “Era notte a Roma”.
Like Italian cinema, the turning point in Monica Vitti’s career was meeting with Michelangelo Antonioni in 1957. Antonio gave the lead role to Vitti in the theatre play “Compagnia del Nuovo”, which he directed. He would also play Vitti in the movie “L’avventura”. In Antonioni’s own words, the film is; “It is the study of a person who has little memory, no sense of remorse, who betrays easily, who easily compromises.” One of the main themes of the film is the “human-type”, which has reached the highest point financially, but has still not progressed spiritually. Monica Vitti perfectly portrays the inner change that Claudia goes through in this movie. And with her performance in this movie, she becomes the muse of the miscommunication cinema for Antonioni. Together they sign international and timeless films. She starred in films that wrote the global manifesto of Antonionian existentialism, such as “L’eclisse” (1962), “La Notte” (1961) and “Red Desert” (1964), for which she received the Silver Ribbon for Best Supporting Actress in 1962.
Italian style humour
Towards the 70s, Italian cinema began to move away from realism, to evolve into films in Italian comedy and Spaghetti Western style, and to produce works in line with the people’s wishes.
Towards the end of her artistic and emotional partnership with Antonioni, she returns to comedy with “The Rabbit and the Tortoise” (1962). And she gets her first David di Donatello award with this movie. The sequel comes with the play “After the Fall”, about the lives of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. The director was Franco Zeffirelli. Then there are movies like “Sigh”, “Fata Sabina”, “Fairies”, “Hurry to kill me, I’m cold”, and “Chastity Belt”. These are all movies made in the 1960s. Finally, her role in the film “Girl with a Gun” would reaffirm her as a brilliant artist, receiving the silver ribbon and the David di Donatello award in 1969.
In the movie The Chastity Belt, she begins the second emotional affair in her life after Michelangelo Antonioni. Her new crush is the cinematographer Carlo di Palma, who will photograph his films until the mid-1970s. This time she was Palma’s muse. He faced the transition to directorship thanks to Vitti; Palma created three brilliant comedies that represented the praise: “Teresa la thief” (1973), “Qui” (1975) and “Mimì Bluette” (1976).
Thanks to her wide range of acting skills, she was on the same stage with famous directors and the immortal names of cinema, from Alberto Sordi to Vittorio Gassman, from Ugo Tognazzi to Marcello Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini.
After making numerous films with famous directors and names in the 60s and 70s, she returned to dramatic cinema with “Il mistero di Oberwald” and collaborated with Antonioni in 1981. The fame she gained in Italy allowed her to appear in international co-productions in the sixties and seventies, such as Roger Vadim’s “Castle in Sweden” (1963) and “Modesty Blaise, the beauty that kills” (1966), directed by Roger Vadim.
“The Secret Scandal” (1990) in the comedy genre was her last performance as an actor and her only performance as a director; In addition to the script for this film, she also produced the movie “Flirt” and “Francesca è mia” (1986) by photographer and director Roberto Russo, whom she married on September 28, 2000, at the Capitol after 27 years of being together.
Her greatest love is Roberto Russo
With her cat eyes, extraordinary voice and unmatched beauty, Monica Vitti has had little love in her life. Three love stories that left their mark on his life, all long and important. But her great love has been her husband, Roberto Russo, who is a photographer, director, and life partner for over forty years. The couple got married on September 28, 2000, at the Capitol after 27 years of engagement.
Their story was one of intense love, always lived out of sight. This strong bond had only grown stronger after she left the scenes. The couple had lived in Rome since the illness that damaged Vitti’s memory. Roberto, who was actually quiet, broke this rule for gossip about Vitti’s health. “We have known each other for 47 years. We got married in the Capitol in 2000. Our last trips before the illness were the premiere of Notre Dame de Paris and Sordi’s birthday. I’ve been with him for almost 20 years now. I want to deny that Monica was in a Swiss clinic: she was always here in Rome with a caregiver and with me. My presence is what makes the difference for the dialogue I managed to establish through his eyes. It is not true that Monica lives in isolation, cut off from reality”. Every part of this brief description of Roberto Russo bears traces of deep love.
And the news of her death
And on February 2, 2022, Monica Vitti went to the world of the undead, leaving behind a true love she married in 2000 after 27 years of engagement, a 40-year career on the set, international fame earned with films packed in timeless titles, and 14 awards.