Saturday, 15 September 2012

Béatrice Dalle in Bellocchio's "La Visione del Sabba" [1988 Italy]

The nineteen eighties saw several important film makers experimenting with narrative styles - mostly by infusing poetic license into them - and Marco Bellocchio was part of the bandwagon. Because of his propensity to mix reality with fantasy, some of his films have often been misinterpreted as being surreal. His drama, "La Visione del Sabba" [Eng. Title: The Sabbath] is certainly in that category as he explores medieval sorcery and mental illness through a modern perspective.

Young psychiatrist Davide arrives at a Tuscan town to assess Maddalena, a woman accused of murdering a hunter. But Maddalena opines it was done in 'self-defence' - despite admitting to seducing the hunter in the first place. She felt it necessary to eliminate him after realising he's not the one she'd been waiting for 350 years with whom to loose her virginity. While local officials don't take her seriously, Davide not only believes her fascinating story, but also falls in love, even though he's already married. Cristina, his beautiful wife tries to reason with him, but to no avail. Davide gets lost in a world of dreams and hallucinations where he sees Maddalena as a witch being prosecuted and even surviving the inquisitors - in other words, he himself is bewitched.

The film tries to explore the way men through the ages - broadly speaking of course, have fallen under the spell of charismatic women, and uses the premise of Maddalena's 'sorcery' to make some interesting comparisons. But alas, it fails to utilise its runtime to explore this convincingly enough, even though Bellochio had at his disposal all the necessary ingredients. Béatrice Dalle is indeed an inspired casting choice - like a top predator in the wild, she emanates an aura of mystery, magnetism and approaching danger, which fits in so well with her character of Maddalena. The cinematography and lighting, as in all Bellocchio films, is of the highest order - some of the scene compositions are lit so beautifully as to recreate a Caravaggio, and contrasts with the interesting choice of music by Bellocchio-regular Carlo Crivelli. We also have some fine theatre through the remarkable choreography in some set-pieces, and the performances by the main actors are all of a decent standard, including that of the beautiful Corinne Touzet, another French actress in the film. And yet, I'm afraid to say that this film is clearly a case of style over substance, only manageable to watch because of the incomparable Ms. Dalle. It is nevertheless an extremely sensual drama with a visibly erotic undercurrent, and it is for that reason that this would be Recommended Viewing! DVD Link


Compilation: Béatrice Dalle, Corinne Touzet, Helena Coste, Bianca Pesce, and others
I haven't included some other blog-related scenes as they're either too long, or a variation of what's already there. Rest assured there are many other scenes of nudity in the film, which as a whole is positively sensual.

Béatrice Dalle, Corinne Touzet, Helena Coste, and Bianca Pesce and others in La Visione del Sabba

Scene Guide:
  • An imagined scene of medieval inquisitors proving to themselves that Maddalena is indeed a witch, watched by Davide as one of the novices. Béatrice Dalle, never the shy type, exudes the right mix of danger and eroticism in playing the character of Maddalena.
  • Davide is waken up from his dream by a nurse - there's an emergency with a patient named Maria. The naked patient they pass through is played by Helena Coste. Unfortunately I can't identify the actress playing Maria, but we can nevertheless see that Davide likes to use some rather unconventional methods to calm his agitated (and apparently horny) patients! :)
  • Cristina having a telephone banter with family after a shower while husband Davide as always starts sees things - like Maddalena looking at him from the inquisitors' cage. Cristina is played by the lovely and beautifully proportioned Corinne Touzet, an actress I've been totally unaware of until this film.
  • No nudity - Cristina is observant enough to notice Davide's fixation with his new patient Maddalena - he's seeing her everywhere now even if she's actually tucked away in a cell awaiting trial...
  • Cristina tries to reason with Davide later that night, who must be totally blinded through Maddalena's sorcery to see what he's letting pass. Corinne Touzet - wow!
  • The 'witches' sabbath' - thanks to Davide's vivid imagination. This is an excellent piece of theatre, and there are more instances of nudity in this long scene than shown here. The blonde nymphet he covets is played by Bianca Pesce - a fine dancer too from what we can see - part of an extended erotic scene.
  • Maddalena takes a dip in a lake some of you may remember from a segment from Eros which was Antonioni's final film (Regina Nemni and estranged hubby watching two nude woman bathing). Cut-to another inquisition-led exercise to prove she's a witch. Commendable of her to have managed to stay a 'virgin' for all these centuries despite all the naked man-handling..!
  • Virgin in late 20th century, she ain't - Davide sees to that..!
  • No nudity - just a memorable visual from the film - Maddalena appears to have even exhausted her inquisitors..!

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