Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi
Director: Federico Fellini
Running Time: 118 mins
Nights Of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria) is an Italian film about a poor woman, working as a prostitute, who walks the streets of Rome looking for her true love, but only managing to find heartbreak.
This is a really excellent film, blending both strong humour and an absolutely tragic story that will tug at your heartstrings from start to finish. It may not be the most visually dazzling film of Fellini’s, but his direction is still strong, and contributes to establishing the desperate atmosphere that strengthens as the film goes on. However, nothing compares to the astonishing performance given by Giulietta Masina.
We’ll start right there, because Masina’s turn as Cabiria is one of the best performances I’ve seen in a really long time. She completely owns every moment of this film, and does a stunning job at portraying the conflicted and heartbroken woman who, despite having a tough, cynical exterior, really has a heart of pure gold.
Masina’s performance is charismatic and energetic from beginning to end, making Cabiria such a likeable character who is so easy to relate to and sympathise with. She pulls off both the comedic side of her character, with all of the hot-headed and short-tempered behaviour, so well, but when push comes to shove, and all she really wants is to find true love in this cynical world, she is just so convincing and wonderful to watch.
The atmosphere here is the next best part of Nights Of Cabiria. For the majority of the first two acts, it’s a film that’s full of heartbreaking drama as Cabiria attempts and repeatedly fails to find love, and yet there’s it’s got a great sense of humour too. Most of that stems from the short-tempered personality of our protagonist, and you can get some big laughs from time to time, but there’s also a great sense of irony regarding Cabiria’s search for love throughout that, whilst not laugh-out-loud hilarious, is ingenious and subtly very appealing.
In terms of the story, it’s very impressive too. I’m not going to lie, there are a few moments in the middle act where it can drag a little, but for the most part, I was fully engrossed in Nights Of Cabiria. I was deeply touched by Cabiria’s search for love, a story that never came across as overtly cheesy or patronising, but very realistic and emotional. The development of her character as she tries against all odds to find someone is absolutely fascinating, and it leads up to one of the most emotionally powerful endings you’ll ever see, which was stunning to watch.
Overall, Nights Of Cabiria is a fantastic film. It may waver from time to time, but it’s more often than not an expert detailing of a truly emotional and powerful story about a woman simply trying to find pure, innocent love in a cynical modern world, and with an exceptional lead performance from Giulietta Masina, I’m going to this an 8.0.