Mario (Marcello Mastroianni) is a introverted young man who is new in town (a fantastical Livorno created just for the film). He encounters a young woman Natalya (Maria Schell) who appears to be waiting on a bridge. He saves her from some hoodlums and they become acquaintances. Over the next 4 nights we hear the stories of Mario and Natalya and come to learn why Natalya waits day after day at the bridge. Mario falls completely in love with Natalya and (in a departure from the Dostoyevsky story) throws away the letter she asks him to deliver to her returned lover. Will Natalya reciprocate Mario’s feelings for her or will she forever pine for her lost love? The familiar tale unfolds beautifully in Lucino Visconti’s version and the combination of sets, haunting use of lighting and fog, the river, the rain and snow, the narrow streets makes this a treat for the senses.
The lead pair acted very well – Marcello was a heart-throb and Maria was beautifully vulnerable. Jean Marais as the tenant was a complete contrast to Mario the dreamer. He was earthy and big and solid.
The movie had many beautiful moments but I MUST mention the night club scene – Marcello’s dance was an inspired mix of gauche and genius. This is a beautiful film, well worth a watch and a few repeats. The DVD has some great insights into the period and what went into making the film.
Of course by now most of you have realized that this famous tale was adapted by Sanjay Leela Bhansali into Saawariya!