Le Notti Bianche In Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Dostoyevsky's short story "White Nights," the setting shifts from 19th-century St. Petersburg to 1950s Livorno, Italy. The city was re-created…
DVD Review

Le Notti Bianche (2005)

Details Release Date: Jul 12, 2005; DVD Release Date: Jul 12, 2005; Genres: Drama, Foreign Language; With: Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell

In Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Dostoyevsky's short story ''White Nights,'' the setting shifts from 19th-century St. Petersburg to 1950s Livorno, Italy. The city was re-created in the studio, lending the film a surreal and claustrophobic atmosphere. Mario (Marcello Mastroianni), a lonely clerk, becomes enchanted by the mysterious Natalia (Maria Schell) when he finds her weeping on a footbridge, waiting for her long-absent lover (Jean Marais). (They then spend much of the film moving through dark, mist-filled streets — though they are lured out of their self-consciousness in one scene to dance to a swinging Bill Haley & His Comets tune in a crowded cafe.) One night, convinced that Natalia's lover is not returning, they take a boat ride through the canals, and the shadowy fog is replaced by a magical snowfall, symbolic of the dreamers' longing for an unattainable fairy-tale ending. EXTRAS Cinematographer Giuseppe Rottuno discusses Visconti's desire to make the set of White Nights ''real, yet. . .unreal,'' resulting in a movie that is ''sometimes theater and sometimes cinema.'' T. Ryder Smith's lulling, if dry, rendition of the Dostoyevsky tale, downloadable as an MP3, makes a decent bedtime story. Meanwhile, the silence of rare Mastroianni and Schell screen tests will leave you wishing they were both still alive to contribute commentary.

Originally posted Jul 15, 2005 Published in issue #830 Jul 22, 2005 Order article reprints