La Strada (1954) (aka The Road)
Federico Fellini

“What a funny face! Are you a woman, really? Or an artichoke?”

La StradaSeldom do films come that are so simple in their presentation yet possess such strength in their characters. These are the films that sweep you off the ground with their sheer brilliance. Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954) is a benchmark for industries such as Bollywood which flourish on fantasy for film making. La Strada marks Fellini’s transition from neo-realism (His previous film being the brilliant I Vitelloni (1953)) to fantasy. And what a transition it is!

Gelsomina is a innocent and childlike girl brought up isolated from her surroundings. She has always been with nature and children like her. Her life takes an unexpected when Zampano, a wandering stunt performer “buys” her from her mother. She learns to play the trumpet for performing with Zampano. The film follows her encounters with various people on her journey with the “road” being a metaphor for life. Zampano is a beast-like man who has no soft corner towards Gelsomina and ill-treats her consistently. They also meet The Fool, a comedian from another troupe who Gelsomina likes. Things are not smooth between The Fool and Zampano and the latter kills The Fool inadvertantly. Witnessing such cruelty is all novel to Gelsomina who goes into a shell and is eventually deserted by Zampano. Zampano learns later that Gelsomina passed away. The film ends with Zampano breaking down and realizing his mistakes.

A film with great characterization and humour bubbling with innocence. Gelsomina’s character acts as an angel who provides salvation at the end to the sin-hardened Zampano. The images and references of Gelsomina’s childlike innocence indicating her “angelness” appear throughout the film. Guilietta Masina gives a wonderful performance as Gelsomina with strong support from Anthony Quinn as Zampano and Richard Baseheart as The Fool. Oscar winner for best foreign language picture in 1957.