Set during Italy’s struggle for unification, the operatic melodrama Senso stars Alida Valli (The Third Man) as a 19th-century Venetian noblewoman torn between loyalty to her country and a dissolute Austrian officer (Farley Granger).
Luchino Visconti luxuriates in the aristocratic period trappings—a Technicolor feast of sumptuous gold, lavender, scarlet, and emerald jewel tones—while casting a jaundiced eye on Italian history, class, and nationalism. He originally wanted Ingrid Bergman and Marlon Brando for the lead roles, but the studios refused. Playwright Tennessee Williams worked on translating the English dialogue.
“Senso could be described as an agonized love story that unfolds against a vast historical backdrop. But Visconti’s great achievement here is in giving equal importance to both the romance and the history—in fact, in linking the actions and fates of his characters to forces larger than themselves. Just as Roberto Rossellini, another Neorealist pioneer, concluded his career with a series of pedagogical films that probed the lives and ideas of great leaders and thinkers, Visconti wrestled increasingly with the responsibilities and implications of depicting history.” —Los Angeles Times
“The theatrical and ornate mise-en-scène of the scene full of splendor, spectacle, and illusions of reality in the forms of mirrors offers the perfect backdrop for a film that comments on the deception of appearances and the nature of historical truth.” —The Artifice of Cinema: Visconti’s Senso