I was actually not horribly impressed by La Strada when I first watched it. André Bazin wrote a really nice essay about it though, which featured prominently in my master's thesis. I wouldn't make it the first Fellini film you watch (that would be La Dolce Vita), but it is something well worthwhile.

The film centers on a "slow" girl, who is sent to be the wife/employee of a traveling performer (a strong man). The traveling performer treats her horribly. She meets an acrobat who treats her well, he tries to convince her to leave the strong man, but she won't. The strong man accidentally kills the acrobat, the girl goes crazy, he leaves her, he finds out later that she dies, he is left alone on a beach.

What Bazin essentially argues is that given the general attitude of the strong man throughout the film, there is no reason for him to feel remorse, it is not in his character to feel sorry for how he has hurt someone. What he feels instead is the visible absence of the fullness of the girls character. The way she deals with space, the way she understands things, enlivens the world, and now the world that she has created is gone.

If you read more of my posts about love, you'll note that my basic argument about love in cinema is about cinemas ability to show two "worlds" interacting. Not just two basic sets of beliefs and prejudices (that's the stuff of bad romantic comedy), but the actual physical way specific individuals orient themselves in the world. A good love story is about the confusion one faces when one is fascinated by the way another persons moves through space. Then we as the audience are fascinated by the both of them (its love all around).

Both the girl and the acrobat in La Strada, do not just move through space, they float (the acrobat literally). They have a way of livening up any space they enter, despite the fact that they both lack anything that could be commonly understood as an intellect. They could be, and are, beautiful together, but in the girl's understanding her 'way of being' is intertwined with the strong man's. The strong man does not think of her like that. He thinks about her as any other person, someone with utility, but someone who can't get in the way of his survival.

At the last moment it is obvious that, her way of being was intertwined with his, that she was in a very real sense a part of him, and a part of how he oriented himself to the world. With her death the world is palpably 'missing something.'

buy La Strada here

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