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Timeless classics: “Betrothed”

by Maria Stella Bruno

The first meeting with the Classics, for each of us, takes place at the school desks and, it will be due to constraint, it will be due to immaturity, it is not always possible to fully enjoy the beauty of the story told and rarely do you perceive the psychologies of the characters.

For the lucky ones, the “rediscovery” takes place in adulthood, and it is an experience that, if it has not yet been done, I recommend to everyone.

Take, for example, the famous novel by Alessandro Manzoni, “The Betrothed” … As a young girl I did not understand Lucia, I found her too submissive, too good to be the ideal companion for the impetuous Renzo, but, years later, taking that book back in hand, things have definitely changed.

What is striking is that the characters are outlined with remarkable psychology, even with short incisive sentences, almost like a painter’s brushstrokes. Manzoni’s creatures enter the heart: they are loved or hated, they are respected or despised. In short, we enter their world.

But let’s proceed step by step …

The main plot is simple: it is the setting for other events, including historical ones that are linked to the main theme in which the protagonists move.

In fact, there is talk of two young engaged couples forced to flee their native country because the arrogant local squire had targeted the girl. The story takes place in 1600 Lombard and has as its background events such as the plague, the descent of the Lanzichenecchi, the arrogance of the Spanish domination in the Duchy of Milan. Superb historical figures with masterly psychological acuity are outlined such as the nun of Monza, the Unnamed, Cardinal Borromeo. In addition, there is a crowd of highly characterized characters: the people in revolt in Milan, the good guys (criminals ready for anything, under the livery of a lord, to escape the laws of the place), a magnificent Fra ‘Cristoforo, protector of good, an evil Don Rodrigo, incarnation of evil.

However, everyone is given the possibility of redemption according to the laws of Divine Providence which is the engine of the novel.

In fact, the book was born from Alessandro Manzoni’s conversion to Catholicism and reveals his profound reflection and faith.

As with any classic, there have been several film and television transpositions of “The Betrothed”, but the one I like to remember the most, because it struck me the most, is a script from 1967, directed by Sandro Bolchi, with Nino Castelnuovo and Paola Pitagora in the part of the protagonists.

The transposition is extremely faithful, the acting superb, never the protagonists were more apt. Even the pauses of silence “speak” thanks to the pathos of the actors who did not just interpret the character, they wore it like a second skin, felt it inside and made it alive for the audience.

Here is my advice, then: you don’t have time to reread “The Betrothed” or maybe you are wary? Start by looking for that old drama I was talking about.

You will discover, in the interpretation of Pythagoras, a pure, innocent, in love and heartfelt Lucia, who is also strong in faith, capable of bringing down the already tormented Unnamed with that force. You will find an awkward Renzo / Castelnuovo, impetuous yes, but also naive. You will experience his tribulations and, with him, the interweaving of a thousand other characters, none excluded, rendered in film to do justice to those of paper and ink.

Even Manzoni would have a benevolent smile, at least I think, at my suggestion, so get closer to this timeless classic both by reading it and looking at it.

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