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Umberto D. A Depressing Realization of Real Life

Recently The Really Bad Movie Review was able to view a film of the Italian Neo-Realism category, known as Umberto D. Umberto D. is set in the time period after the fall of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Basically set durring the reconstruction period of Europe after WW2. This movie, is one of the most depressing and sad ventures I have ever expierienced, yet it was strangely good.

When first getting down and dirty with this movie, I thought to myself, “What the hell could possibly make a movie about a guy whos poor and struggling to survive, good in any way, shape, or form?” The movie seemed like it would be a droll, sad look at an individuals life, and it would bore me to death. Although I was right in some aspects I was wrong in others. The movie was about the rather depressing life of a man, a retired civil servant named Umberto D. Ferrari (Carlo Battisti).

The movie begins durring a protest march for better pensions from the unions. Its a peaceful march, nothing violent, and nobody seems to care. People walk past this protest, buses drive through it parting the crowd. Its all as if these people don’t exist. The elderly trying to scrape by are depicted as nobody. They’re unimportant to the rest of the world, and even to eachother. As the mob is dispersed by the Italian police force, we seea small group of elderly gentlemen, (our protagonist is the one with the dog) run into an alley to take cover from the police dispersing the crowd. An old man makes a quip to the nearby Umberto about how the pensions being low is unfair, Umberto agrees with him, and presents him with a watch, saying “Its only 10,000 marks,cheap compared to the 20,000 marks it cost.” The man immediately rejects his company, which starts to become a recurring pattern in this movie, such as the scene after this where he tries to sell his watch to a man making conversation with him. The man lies about where he lives and walks into a building, only to come out again 3 seconds later and advance down the street.

Umberto has no friends except for one person. We meet her in the next scene. She is the maid in the house of Umberto’s cynical, spiteful landlady Antonia Belloni (Lina Gennari), and her name is Maria. (Ironically she is played by an actress named Maria Pia Casilio) We soon learn Maria is pregnant from one of two soldiers who reside in the army base. Neither one wants to admit to being the father of course, and this just intensifies the problem for her more.

We learn shortly after this that Umberto is in debt to his landlady, owing her 15,000 marks. To make matters worse, she threatens to kick him out. umberto is now scrambling to come up with cash to pay his rent, a scenario that may be familiar to some people. He finally sells his watch, not for the hoped for amount of 10,000 marks, but merely 5,000 marks. After collecting his money he goes home and collects some valuable texts which he goes and sells to a book store. The book store owner only offers 2,000 marks for their very high value. After a fruitless attempt at bargaining for a higher price, Umberto accepts the money, and takes his collective 7,000 marks, and tries to bargain with her4 to save his home. He gives the money to Maria, and tells her to propose this bargan to the landlady. Maria returns with the money and tells him Antonia says he either has to pay all the money or nothing. She won’t accept bargains from the old man, just all the money at once.

After another day of trying to make money, Umberto trys another ploy to get himself taken care of. He takes the thermometer from the maid and heats it up so he looks like he has a fever. After he asks the maid to get him an ambulance, and he is picked up by the medics and escorted from the house. We see Maria and Antonia as they look on as Umberto is carried out of the house, and we almost see a look of worry on Antonia’s face, but of course that brief glimpse of compassion leads to nothing.

Umberto makes his way to a charity hospital set up by the church in Italy, for those who can’t afford medical treatment. Upon arrival, Umberto meets a con man, who teaches him the ropes of how to stay in the hospital, and suggests that he ask the nurse for a rosary, so she’ll think that he’s a god loving individual, and let him stay. He does so, and winds up staying at the hospital for about a week  On the day he’s discharged Maria comes to visit him too, with no good news about finding out who the father is. Umberto promises to  confront the men about her problem.

Upon arriving home from the hospital Umberto learns of Antonia’s plans to renovate the house, considering she’s been proposed to, and Umberto is now out on his ass regardless of what he dose. Learning then that his dog was missing too, he embarks on a franttic journey to find his precious Flick. He arrives outside the dog pound and goes through a whole ordeal trying to get change, no one will break his 1,000 mark bill, so he goes on to buy a 50 mark cup, which he immediately smashes on the ground and accepts his 950 marks as change, and collects his Jack Russell Terrier. He returns home for one final nights sleep in his bed, and wakes up early the next morning to pack his things. At around the same time, Maria is awoken by a cat. She watches the cat for a few seconds, and then gets up and goes about preparing breakfast. She sits in the dark kitchen grinding coffee, and hears the door open as Umberto makes his way out of the house. She rushes to talk to him and after a few moments he bids Maria a final goodbye, and leaves with Flick.

In a rather depressing final scene, Umberto tries to give Flick away to first a dog sitting home. But when he sees the conditions, he instantly changes his mind. He then tries to give him away to a little girl who loved to play with him in the park, and this doesn’t work either. In a final desperate attempt at peace Umberto goes on to nearly kill himself and successfully scares the shit out of his dog at the same time, so badly that for a short moment Flick wants nothing to do with him. After Umberto finally gets Flick to return to him, he walks away into the “sunset” with him, for one of the bleakest, “happy endings” I’ve ever seen in my life. It  actually made me feel worse, because it was so out of place. Its a groaner ending you know, the one where your like, ugh, really? Or you just think wow, thats in bad taste. But the really bad movie review will give this 3.5 Jason masks out of 5. Good flick, sad ending.

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~ by Russell Weinberg on October 26, 2010.

One Response to “Umberto D. A Depressing Realization of Real Life”

  1. haha you read my mind! This movie was sweet but so DEPRESSING. i mean i know that they have each other and all but they situation remains the same. They’re homeless and broke. Umberto can’t even beg because he’s ashamed. And what about food and such? They can’t have a healthy lifestyle. It was a real bittersweet ending, it was cute but it really shows the huge cracks of their depressing reality.

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