What do you do when fascism takes hold of your nation? Do you attempt to fight it, outwardly or secretively? Do you accept it and try to move on? Or do you embrace it?
Most of the media that has come out following the Second World War has focused on the some combination of the two former — a fact that sets Bernardo Bertolucci‘s The Conformist apart from many, many other works. Here, the hero either struggling to bring down the regime or to retain as normal a life as possible beneath its shadow is gone; in his place stands Marcello Clerci (Jean-Louis Trintinagant), a man who so desires a normal existence that he will stop at nothing — even joining fascist Italy’s secret police.
Set largely during the heyday of Mussolini and his society, the film opens with Clerci riding in a car, en route to assassinate an old college professor. Outwardly a good fascist, Bertolucci reveals through a series of flashbacks that all is not as it seems within Clerci; that despite marrying a normal woman, having a normal house, even becoming an agent of conformity, perhaps nothing can erase the suffering and deviance he has known in his life.
With cinematography and direction that juxtaposes the blatant, brutal imagery tied to fascism with coy, beautiful shots that hint at a life outside its confines, The Conformist is political drama at its finest.