I basilischi [The Basilisks] (1963)

I basilischi
Director: Lina Wertmüller
Writer: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Antonio Petruzzi, Stefano Satta Flores, Sergio Ferranino, Luigi Barbieri, Flora Carabella, Mimma Quirico
Seen on: 26.12.2021

Antonio (Antonio Petruzzi), Francesco (Stefano Satta Flores) and Sergio (Sergio Ferranino) have grown up together and are now in an age where decisions have to be made about what their lives should look like. In their own small town, options are limited and the three spend most of their time just hanging around and trying to flirt. When Antonio gets a chance to go to Rome and study at university there, things might change for him. Might.

The Basilisks doesn’t so much tell a story as capture a mood, and in a very impressive way. Much will depend on whether you like to be exposed to that mood, but the effective filmmaking here can’t be denied.

The film poster showing a couple of scenes from the film, as well as a close-up of Francesco (Stefano Satta Flores).

I basilischi is translated as The Basilisks, or alternately, and maybe more accurately The Lizards. The three young men the film centers own seem to lead the existence of Lizards, hanging around in the sun, sometimes ambling about a little. Little purpose, but perfectly suited to their environment that has nothing to offer. Is it any surprise that Antonio, who does get offered a chance, a way out, a different life, feels ill at ease there? He is too adapted to life in the small, hot village to fit in anywhere else.

Wertmüller perfectly captures that aimlessness where even the romance develops without much ardour or passion. It seems to be simply “what one does”, and since there is nothing else to do, well, why the hell not.

Two young women walking arm in arm, looking at the three guys on the other side of the street.

All of this takes place in a film that feels hot at all times. The dry, sweltering heat seems to crawl off the screen. It is almost paralyzing, especially when combined with the lack of purpose or drive that suffuses the film.

It’s not an easy combination, and I can understand if you aren’t really able to go along with the film. There were moments when I grew tired of it, too. But it is certainly evocative and portrays the situation of the three young men in a way that puts you right alongside them.

Antonio (Antonio Petruzzi), Francesco (Stefano Satta Flores) and Sergio (Sergio Ferranino) walking around

Summarizing: very impressive.

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