Surprise: Conformity central theme in The Conformist


1970’s Oscar-nominated Italian film The Conformist, directed by Bernardo Bartolucci, does not disappoint. The cast is mainly Italian actors and actresses from the era. Jean-Louis Trintignant is Marcello Clerici, an Italian man who is determined to “prove himself” after taking a job inside Mussolini’s Fascist regime. Stefania Sandrelli is Clerici’s wife, Giulia, and Enzo Tarascio is Professor Quadri, Clerici’s college professor who has become a political target.

As the plot thickens, Clerici and his new wife travel to Paris on their honeymoon in part to celebrate their recent marriage, but also to satisfy a mission that Clerici has tasked himself with in order to undoubtedly solidify his loyalty to the Fascist party. The central question of the movie becomes, “will you do what it takes to completely conform to the majority?” even when they ask you to assassinate a college mentor?


Such a cool use of light and dark colors to contrast Clerici, bottom right, with a member of the Fascist government.

The Conformist fits neatly into the political drama genre because it contains all the key elements: pressing political motives, romance, travel, and action. Of course, it helps that the cinematography creates a sense of suspense within the film and the spoken Italian with English subtitles only adds to that – you literally never know what’s going to happen next.

Historical context, at least a general basis, is important for understanding this film. If you don’t understand the basics of Fascism or know a little bit about the effect of Mussolini’s reign, then you may have a hard time understanding Clerici’s deep need to become a conformist within that society. He could not simply refuse a job and leave the country; he had to adapt and protect his new family at all costs.


Long hallways, geometric lighting, and dramatic carpet create incredible visual depth.

The Conformist was a diamond in the rough, among all the political dramas out there. It helped that I have a soft spot for all things Italian, but if you have an extra two hours and want to watch a foreign film about a fascinating part of Italian politics, then I highly recommend The Conformist!

Letter grade: A.

Tweet: Italian political drama, The Conformist, delightfully conforms to expectations.


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