Massacre in Rome with Richard Burton and Marcello Mastroianni
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
This film benefits from:
- A top cast
- Compelling, tragic story
And yet, in my view it is a misfire.
What is more important, apart from a subjective, personal view, it looks like professional critics did not approve of the end result.
First of all, I think that the fact that Richard Burton talks in Italian is a major disadvantage.
And it goes for much of the rest of the cast, Leo McKern included.
Then I think that there is an air of artificiality about this production...
Were those involved overwhelmed by the nature of the event?
It really happened and the Nazis did kill so many innocent people.
- Why did it happen?
The principle of respect for authority, as described in the classic book
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
Is one explanation.
In an experiment, students were asked to apply electric shocks to people who had to answer questions and gave the wrong answer.
At the start, it was explained that these are the rules and they have to continue no matter what.
When the answers were wrong and the voltage increased to 60, 100 and then more, those shocked started pleading and crying...
- Please stop
But urged on by authority, in the person of a scientist in a lab coat, most participants went as high as four hundred and fifty volts!
It appears that in the same manner, ordinary Germans just obeyed the same rule, during World War II
Nevertheless, people like Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler were responsible and indeed, after the war he went on trial, together with most of the others responsible for this atrocity.
The officer is played by Richard Burton.
On the side of the good, the superhero, role model we have Father Pietro Antonelli.
Marcelo Mastroianni is in this saintly role.
It is a well known battle between a monster and an angelic figure.
William Goldman explains in his wonderful book Adventures In The Screen Trade how important it is for audiences to believe the story.
He gives a few examples.
One refers to a plot wherein the male lead role enters a well guarded castle, finds open windows, unguarded passages, the man who is supposed to protect this very important lady is not there and the intruder finds himself alone with her, in her bedroom...
William Goldman is right in assuming that the public would dismiss this incredible narrative...
Only it happened with the queen of Great Britain.
Working for A Bridge Too Far, the problem of implausibility appeared.
An attack on the Germans was so astounding as to appear impossible.
I don't know what happened with Massacre.
But a real ordeal did not transfer well to the big screen