The Film: 4/5
“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” - Harlan Ellison
La Rabbia could easily be mistaken for a documentary since it is constructed completely out of news footage, but it is more of an objective point/counterpoint discussion in cinematic form. The film begins with the rhetorical question “Why is our life dominated by discontent, by anguish, by fear of war, by war?” and is divided into two distinct halves made by a pair of renowned Italian filmmakers whose personal and political philosophies could not be more poles apart.
Part I: The first half is written and directed by noted leftist filmmaker and poet Pier Paulo Pasolini, with narration by Giorgio Bassani and Renato Guttuso. Pasolini’s section takes a look at cultural and political revolutions in nations such as Hungary and Cuba and the director’s home country in the wake of the fall of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime, examines our society’s fascination with glamorous celebrity lifestyles - personified by such icons of cinema as Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, and Marilyn Monroe - and the self-entitled bourgeoisie.
Part II: The second half is written and directed by Giovannino Guareschi, a conservative journalist and humorist, with narration by Gigi Artuso and Carlo Romano. His views of the great changes taking place around the world following World War II are most of the time the polar opposite of Pasolini’s. Guareschi examines the construction of the Berlin Wall, the end of the European occupation of Africa, the First Indochina War which would ultimately lead to the Vietnam War nearly two decades later, and the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.
The history of modern civilization is filled with stories of horrific strife and wondrous triumph, or wars fought and won, of dictatorships toppled and new societies built where the people are given the chance to rule for themselves. Most of the time these changes are beneficial to the continual evolution of the human race but they often come at a terrible price. Some among us would rather there be no changes at all, that everything is fine just the way it is and anything new and exciting that comes along is evil and immoral and must be destroyed or denigrated at all costs. Not every fresh idea can take root. Change does not come easily. It has to be widely embraced, fought for, and often times sacrificed for. Sometimes we have to make large compromises to get minor alterations, and vice versa.
La Rabbia isn’t so much a movie as it is a feature-length debate between two rigidly prepared yet passionate intellectuals who only wish to express their opposing views on where our society is headed and where it was coming from in the most mannered and mature way possible. Using newsreel footage both Pasolini and Guareschi give constructive arguments shaped by their understanding of the facts and their own philosophies. Pasolini’s approach is poetic and hopeful when discussing revolutionary movements that took place in the years following the end of World War II and somewhat elitist when the film focuses on global celebrity culture. On the other hand Guareschi’s commentary is pessimistic and backward-leaning, believing that the societal progress Pasolini praises arose purely out of revenge and even defending the colonial occupation of Africa. Neither filmmaker is completely right nor are they completely wrong, but whoever’s argument seems the most salient ultimately depends on your perspective.
You can side with Pasolini’s breathless embrace of the revolution of ideas and bullets or go with Guareschi’s belief that any kind of change is primitive and will one day be the undoing of the world. A movie like La Rabbia is difficult to judge on its content so I will rate it solely on its technical merits, and in that area it is superb.
For a film that’s nearly five decades old the overall quality of the restored and uncut print of La Rabbia Raro has graced us with is pretty solid. The film is presented in a grainy but highly viewable full frame transfer with some visual differences in the many newsreel clips used by the filmmakers. The Italian mono track is well balanced between the jaunty music score and the somewhat tinny narration. English subtitles are provided.
The supplements on this disc are few but what we get is quite substantial. The best of the extras is The Anger 1, The Anger 2, The Anger 3, Arabia, a 72-minute retrospective documentary about the history of La Rabbia and its reception and impact featuring fresh interviews with crew members, critics, and scholars.
Next up is a short film by Pasolini entitled The Walls of Sana’a (13 minutes), which focuses on life in the capital of Yemen.
Five different trailers for La Rabbia are included here, the first two of which position the film as an intellectual WWE-style match-up. DVD credits close out the extras.
Included with the DVD is a 23-page booklet containing information about the film, correspondence between Pasolini and Guareschi, critical analysis about La Rabbia, political cartoons by Guareschi, and comments from both directors.
Whether or not you agree with either Pasolini and Guareschi you cannot deny that they have made a powerful and challenging film that invites us to view the great societal changes around the world through their eyes and consider where we are now as a people and where we could be heading. Raro Video has done a Criterion-quality job in the presentation of La Rabbia and the inclusion of several noteworthy supplementary features
The Anger (La Rabbia)
Director - Pier Paolo Pasolini, Giovannino Guareschi
Cast - Giorgio Bassani, Rennato Guttaso
Country of Origin - Italy
Discs - 1
MSRP - $29.98
Distributor - Raro Video
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan