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Jacqui Oakley 2013
So, between all Christmas madness I did luckily manage to get to watch a few Italian Movies this past December. Some of Fellini’s, some of Antonioni’s and some Visconti. A film that really stood out for it’s strikingly beautiful cinematography was Luchino Visconti’s, The Leopard staring Burt Lancaster as the lead. Every scene looked like a classic oil painting, so complimentary to the old-world themes of the film.
The movie focuses on the Prince of Salina and his family as they try to find the role of a dying aristocracy within the tumultuous social upheavals of 1860′s Sicily. Burt Lancaster’s Prince gracefully tries to maintain the family’s dignity & traditions throughout the film, refusing to take active steps to halt the decline of his personal fortunes. He knows their time is at an end and there is no use fighting it. Scenes with the family exhausted from travel depict them almost as sculptures…., dusty, aged & insignificant. As the Prince himself says, “We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals and sheep, and the whole lot of us – leopards, lions, jackals and sheep – will continue to think ourselves the salt of the earth.” The world will change but never-the-less be the same.
The climax is set within multiple scenes at a lush ostentatious society ball. It’s a brilliant sequence where the Prince fully acknowledges that there is no place for him in this new society & finally mourns the loss. He is a old man who doesn’t belong within the new Italy and maybe even his Sicilian people can’t adapt to this changing world, “They (the Sicilians) never want to improve. They think themselves perfect. Their vanity is greater than their misery.”
The Leopard is full of lushness and extravagance as seen in the colours and patterns within the costumes and surroundings of the Prince’s family. Scenes within their palaces and the placement of each figure feels so– almost too–precisely composed, telling in a world were now they’re just biding their time, playing their usual roles.
Here are some of the scenes I took from the film. The compositions and framing of the characters are brilliant. I have to remember to look at these images for inspiration when composing an illustration involving several characters. Just beautiful…