La Strada

Hauntingly beautiful Italian movie “La Strada” (1954) by Frederico Fellini starring Giuletta Masina, Anthony Quinn, Richard Baseheart among others.

Gelsomina (Giuletta Masina) is called upon by her mother saying she has to go on the road with strong man Zampano (Anthony Quinn) to replace her sister Rosa who has died. It is not clear how she died. Zampano gives her mother 10,000 lire to purchase Gelsomina.

Gelsomina is a gullible girl with a beautiful innocent face but she does not know anything – cooking or any of the skills to be with Zampano. He tries to teach her the trombone but fails. Zampano is a grumpy moody cranky guy who does strong man shows on the roads and circuses like breaking a iron chain through use of his muscles and lung power.

Gelsomina runs off to witness a high live wire event of “Il Matto” (the Fool played by Richard Baseheart) who falls for her completely and asks her to leave Zampano. He gives confidence to her and says everything including a stone has a purpose in life.

Il Matto fools around with Zampano which enrages him too much. Zampano stops at a few places and goes off with girls in the area, but hardly ever sleeps or makes love to Gelsomina. They go to a circus to perform there but a brawl ensues between Zampano and Il Matto which results in Zampano in jail for a few days. The circus people exhort Gelsomina to leave the rogue and come with them.

Zampano and Gelsomina stop at a monastery and there Zampano attempts to steal some silver articles from the church. Then they encounter Il matto on the road which again results in a fight between the two resulting in the death of Il Matto. Very tragic ending towards the climax of the movie.

La Strada is all about Gelsomina, her beauty, her innocence, her Chaplinesque style, her emotions. She realises that Zampano is only using her, but her love for Zampano ensures that she does not dump him. La Strada is Fellini’s tribute to Gelsomina as much as Pather Panchali was Satyajit Ray’s tribute to Durga.

Giuletta Masina has enacted one of the most magnificent roles done any any female actor in more than 100 years of world cinema. She is breathtaking in the movie. She has stolen the show in every single frame. We wonder why Gelsomina does not leave the brute for better prospects elsewhere especially when Il Matto had shown her the way. Reason is that she has come to love Zampano for whatever the animal he is and proves in the end by dumping her on a sidewalk with some money and the trombone. In the entire movie, not once does Zampano call her by name.

Both Anthony Quinn and Richard Baseheart have done superb roles but La Strada is all about Giuletta Masina. Haunting music by Nino Rota, brilliant direction by Fellini for which this movie has gobbled up a spate of awards.

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