Figures of desire and repression in the Conformist by Bertolucci

  • Federica Ivaldi University of Pisa
Keywords: Bertolucci, Conformist, Freudian rhetoric, Fascism, Desire


Set during the Fascist era, the novel The Conformist (1951) by Moravia tells the story of Marcello, a member of OVRA obsessed by the need to feel equal to other people. It is a theory novel that links homosexuality to repression and fascism. The rewriting of Bertolucci (1970) reinforces the Freudian key: on the big screen, the iron temporal and causal progression of the novel is demolished by the free use of flashbacks, while any mention of fate disappears and Marcello becomes the filter of the entire narrative. Psychoanalysis is the keystone that holds up the film, replacing the mechanical progression of fate with the bi-logic of the unconscious.

To repress his homosexuality - not accepted by society but, first of all, by the protagonist himself - Marcello tries to conform in everything  to society and the particular historical-political moment. Marriage and adherence to fascism are the two instruments of this conformism strategy;  the female figures, in particular, play an essential role,  through a game of duplication and reflections, taking shape as the subject of a real desire or instead of a desire mediated by the will of repression and denial of unacceptable impulses, unspeakable memories and sense of guilt.

In fact, playing with the image, editing and interference with sound, Bertolucci seems to suggest deep meanings which contrast with the surface of the text, and proposes a particular declination of the "Freudian rhetoric" of the text: referring to the critical psychoanalytic approach offered by Francesco Orlando, the essay investigates the semiotic-linguistic manifestations of compromise formation between desire and denial of the protagonist and analyzes moments of the film that reflect simultaneously the two psychic forces in conflict.


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Author Biography

Federica Ivaldi, University of Pisa
DIpartimento di Studi Italianistici


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How to Cite
Ivaldi, F. (2013). Figures of desire and repression in the <i>Conformist</i&gt; by Bertolucci. Between, 3(5).