1900 is a saga spanning four decades of Italian history, from the end of the 19th century through the end of World War 2. The opening scene shows the day in 1945 when the war ends (radio broadcasting from Milan) while the peasants on the farm/estate are celebrating, and plotting vengeance on the fleeing fascists. This scene is used as the basis of a vast flashback to the pre-World War 1 era, before the birth of the two main protagonists,
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Robert de Niro - who plays Alfredo, (scion of the landowning family which has owned the estate), and who is being held "prisoner" in his ancestral cow barn by a young boy wielding a military rifle - starts the flashback by telling the boy that his (de Niro's "Alfredo's") grandfather died in that very barn.
The movie goes through the simultaneous births of the two lifetime friends/antagonists, Alfredo and Olmo (Depardieu), a bastard who is part of a large extended peasant family,
With Italian history weaving throughout, the boys come to challenge each other as children, and grow to love each other as lifetime friends, and also, as they struggle with their fate as class enemies. They compare their penises, share a prostitute as young men, and have separate love affairs with incredible women, the one a revolutionary school teacher, the other an exotic Bohemian dilettante. The film shows the rise of fascism as sponsored by some defenders of private property and business (this is Bertolucci's big theme), and the destruction of social idealism as the pre-Stalinist Communist party is crushed by the black shirts (Donald Sutherland plays a prominent Fascist and twisted sadist).
The review of this Movie prepared by Albert Krauss
Bernardo Bertolucci's sprawling epic portrays the fortunes and history of Italy in the first half of the 20th century through the medium of two boys born on the same day in the same house in 1900: the son of wealthy landowners (De Niro) and an illegitimate peasant named Olmo (Depardieu). Most of the story takes place 1900-1945, though there is a brief epilogue of the two as grandfathers in 1976. Friends who share women and play, the two protagonists nevertheless often find themselves separated by social class and the tides of history: the rise of Fascism sweeps in one and his icy beauty of a wife (Sanda), while in reaction the peasants are drawn to support Communism. Sweeping and ambitious, the film can seem choppy, often appallingly crude (Lancaster as a doddering patriarch casually attempting to rape a peasant girl in the stable; Sutherland the consummate figure of evil as a fascist who rapes and murders a young boy, and bashes a cat to death with his forehead), enamored of allegory (Sanda as untouchable Art, Attila and Regina as dirty Politics), as well as overlong (the original American release was a little over 4 hours, an NC-17 version put out in 1993 exceeded 5!), but it is filled with potent, memorable images.
The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus