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From Novella to Film: "The Stranger" (1967) Luchino Visconti (Italian New Wave)

French novelist Albert Camus wrote his novella "The Stranger" during the height of World War II in Europe. Many years later, Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti attempted to adapt the novella into a film but was heavily criticized by film critics around the world due to this masterpiece lacking creativity ranging from different types of shots, developing a clear mood, as well as rewriting the story from a book to a typical Italian New Wave movie.

 

The mood of this film was likely dry because the theme is existentialism, where the main character, Meursault, hardly has any emotions in any shape or form throughout the plot. The theme can make the film tortuous, but Visconti attempted to give some viewers emotions about Meursault's careless feelings on life. These were all shown with extensive shots in both parts of the film during the murder of the Arab scene as well as the courtroom scenes where he was being sentenced for the murder. As a result of these plot points and how they were adapted, the storyline was overall passive rather than active for viewers.

 

Shot in Algeria, where the story takes place, this was one of the better low-quality films that eventually went missing for many years and was hardly shown to the public. The author, Albert Camus, gave complicated permission to create this film based on the book, which had been translated and famous worldwide. On the other hand, the film's mood hit the spot because Meursault was an emotionless character, and this was executed by using decayed visuals of the different characters and the different environments each character was in.

 

In the story, one character is abusive to his dog with mange disease, and as a result, Visconti can censor out the dog entirely where there are no sound effects, dog, or any signs of abuse. Instead, it's just spoken about, just like in the novella. Additionally, when Meursault was on trial, the scene felt realistic and visual to the story.

 

Before the 1960s, Algeria was under the control of France, and this story took place many years before the independence of Algeria, where in the early 1940s, World War II was breaking through Europe, with the Nazis slowly taking over from Poland to France. As a result, the overall mood of this film was depressing, but the adaptation was so poor that this film is not worth watching. Viewers should read the book and not even attempt to watch this film.

 

Years prior and years later, other filmmakers learned from these mistakes from these earlier New Wave films, and it appeared that Italy had one of the more difficult transitions of stories out of all of the European Cultures of the 1960s. On the other hand, France was one of the major nations to be successful in the New Wave era. As a result, the era was able to spread throughout the world, starting with filmmakers such as Godard Bergman and then eventually to more famous American films such as "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), "Night of the Living Dead" (1969) and "The French Connection" (1971).

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I can hardly tolerate Visconti, especially his big 60s films -- I rarely bring up the subject of pretension, and self-inflation, in class, but Visconti always to me to be wallowing in his own self-importance and lack of ideas. This film is about as un-Camus and un-Existentialist as you can get in the New Wave era; he similarly botched LUDWIG, THE LEOPARD, and other big expensive "prestige" subjects. At the time, he was a world-famous name brand, but like so many of the Italians (thinking of Fellini) his rep has plummeted since.

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