Review: Il Conformista (The Conformist, 1970)


A film full of style about a man who lacks any style!

Written By: Bernardo Bertolucci
Directed By: Bernardo Bertolucci

There is a paradox in Il Conformista, the film is full of style but it is about a man who wants to avoid style as much as possible and merely seeks to conform. I happen to like this paradox a lot and it helps add to a story that isn’t all that deep. Il Conformista looks fantastic, with wonderful sets and cinematography. The style of Il Conformista is truly its strength, but the paradox the film represents is also highly compelling and gives the viewer something to think about.

Some of the ideas presented in Il Conformista are interesting, but they also present my big problem with the film. Marcello’s draw to fascism is correlated to a forced homosexual encounter he had as a child. That encounter scars him and causes him to look for something that will provide order and allow him to be normal just like everyone else. He uses fascism to keep his homosexuality in check, in actuality he is a man who doesn’t feel he is responsible for any of his actions. His rapist is responsible for his homosexuality and for all that comes after. He reaches his breaking point at the end because he has lost fascism, his rapist has returned and finally he may have to own up to his own actions.

The above may seem deep, but it’s pretty easy to pick up while watching Il Conformista. I hesitate to use the dreaded style over substance, but that is the best way I can think of to describe Il Conformista. It is wonderfully stylish and presents ideas on the surface, but if you try to dig beyond the surface of what you are seeing you will come up empty. As a surface movie Il Conformista is great, but it lacks any true depth in its story or its themes to push it to the next level.

As I said at the onset, Il Conformista is a visually interesting film. It’s story is easy enough to take in, but lacks any emotional or deep punch. But, it is stylish to the extreme and presents plenty of amazing visuals and the contrasting visual style versus the lack of style present in the main character was artistically pleasing. I’m not willing to call Il Conformista an excellent film like so many others are, but it is a great film that is definitely worth checking out.




2 responses to “Review: Il Conformista (The Conformist, 1970)

  1. Psychology of a Liberal Fascist
    When we think about “fascists” we imagine an authoritarian person who crudely believes in extremist political doctrine. But what about the polite, delicate, tolerant and rational fascists? Do they exist? Bertolucci’s “Conformist” shows a person with a liberal sensibility, intellectual sophistication and existential taste as a collaborator with a despotic and ruthless political power and analyzes the reasons for this spiritual surrender (including not so much sexual traumas from his childhood [although represented quite elaborately and meaningfully] as a dream about social recognition as an ultimate proof of personal value). According to Bertolucci, inferiority complex feeds conformism.
    Find the article about Marcello Clerichi and his personal and social relations “Psychology of Conformism during Totalitarian Historical Periods”(posted in Sept., 2009) [including the analysis of screen shots from Bertolucci’s film at:
    By Victor

  2. Thanks for the info Victor.

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