We All Loved Each Other So Much

English Title: We All Loved Each Other So Much

Original Title: C’eravamo tanto amati

Country of Origin: Italy

Studio: La Deantir, Delta Film, Dean Film

Director: Ettore Scola

Producer(s): Pio Angeletti, Adriano De Micheli

Screenplay: Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Ettore Scola

Cinematographer: Claudio Cirillo

Art Director: Luciano Ricceri

Editor: Raimondo Crociani

Runtime: 121 minutes

Genre: Comedy

Starring/Cast: Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi, Stefanía Sandrelli, Stefano Satta Flores

Year: 1974

Volume: Italian

Three young men become friends while fighting in the Resistance but after the war their paths diverge and their hopes, dreams and ideals are repeatedly dashed. Would-be intellectual Nicola abandons his wife, child and life in the provinces after a heated debate following a screening of Ladri di biciclette/ Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) costs him his job; instead he attempts to forge a career as a film critic in Rome. Gianni renounces his socialist ideals and his one true love in order to marry the daughter of a rich and corrupt industrialist and assure himself a successful and financially lucrative career as a lawyer. And Antonio, who works as a hospital porter, falls in love with an aspiring actress, Luciana, only for her to abandon him in favour of Gianni. As the years pass and their paths repeatedly cross, the friends are able to see reflected in one another the changes that life has wrought on their youthful selves.

C’eravamo tanto amati is a bitter-sweet meditation on the failings of post-war Italian society, the role of cinema, and how one comes to terms with life’s refusal to match our aspirations. It is a quintessential example of the commedia all’italiana and a key title in the filmography of Ettore Scola. Typically for the genre, the main characters are constructed as social types and the vicissitudes that befall them are intended to reflect broader moods and events in Italian history. Thus the film traces a familiar path from the hopes and ideals of the Resistance, through a process of ‘selling out’ during the Economic Boom to an image of a corrupt and compromized present. Those unsympathetic to this idea of cinema as social history could certainly find much to object to in Scola’s film. Its sense of nostalgia for an idealized past and pessimism about the present are arguably counterproductive to the political commentary underpinning the narrative with which Age and Scarpelli clearly wish to imbue the film. Similarly, the way in which the film encourages (Italian) viewers to identify with its protagonists arguably results in an apology for their vices and failings. Seen in this light it is hard not to recognize the central polemic of Scola’s film in the fictional film with which Nanni Moretti satirizes contemporary Italian cinema in Caro diario/Dear Diary (1993). Nanni’s response to the film’s insistence that we’ve all compromized and become shadows of our former selves – turning the ‘we’ into a ‘you’ and affirming that the film does not speak for him – constitutes an open challenge to this kind of cinema.

However, Moretti’s parody concerns the Italian cinema of the late-Eighties and perfectly captures the schematic plotting and aesthetic poverty that characterize many of the films made during this period. Scola’s film, on the other hand, is a beautifully made example of the commedia all’italiana that dates from the final years of its golden age. Even if the characters are constructed as social types, they are rarely schematic and the performances of genre stalwarts Gassman, Manfredi and Sandrelli are all perfectly judged. Stylistically the film is relatively audacious, too. From the opening scene’s freeze-frame during Gianni’s dive into his private pool (and the accompanying voice-over announcing that the dive will only be completed at the end of the film) to the film’s unexpected transition from monochrome to colour mid-way through, Scola consistently utilizes the stylistic possibilities of the medium to liven up his tale. There are some wonderful stylistic flourishes, most notably the characters’ habit of stepping out of the diegesis to reveal their inner feelings to the audience – a conceit borrowed from the Eugene O’Neill play Luciana drags the uncomprehending Antonio to and which Scola manages to utilize in a variety of surprising and often delightful ways.

This attention to cinema aesthetics feeds back into a broader discourse about cinema and its role within Italian society. Thus it is Neorealism – and Ladri di biciclette in particular – that changes the course of Nicola’s life, and it is during the filming of Anita Ekberg’s dip in the Trevi Fountain in La dolce vita (Federico Fellini, 1960) that Antonio bumps into Luciana once more. (Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni, Mike Buongiorno and many others all have cameos in the film, while Vittorio De Sica appears in archive footage.) Thus the film’s narrative of compromize and social change is linked to a discourse about Italian cinema that seems to articulate a decline from Neorealism into the kind of film Moretti parodies. It is fitting, then, that the film is dedicated to De Sica, whose directorial career perfectly embodied the ideals of the post-war moment only to founder under the harsh demands of life and the industry in the decades that followed.

Author of this review: Alex Marlow-Mann