Le Notti Bianche (1957), Visconti

Le notti bianche (White Nights), directed by Italian neorealist Luchino Visconti, takes its title and basic plot from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1848 short story. In both the story and the film, a lonely young man meets a lonely young woman.

Mario (Marcello Mastroianni) is lonely for social reasons; he is a stranger and a newcomer to town. Natalia (Maria Schell) is lonely because she has always lived in isolation, even in the heart of the city. Her loneliness is intensified because she is in love with a man (Jean Marais) who may not ever return to her, but who continues to occupy her heart to the exclusion of any other possible relationship.

Mario thanks the young woman for the moment of happiness she has brought him. However, he is left alone at the end of the film, befriending the same stray dog he met at the beginning. He is back at square one, and has put more energy into pursuing the fantasy of an obsession rather than any prospect of real love.

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