A militant film by Ettore Scola



Panel of the political and trade union struggles that shook Italy between the 1960s and 1970s

Among Ettore Scola's feature films, there is one that differs from the characteristics of his production. Its about Trevico-Torino – travel by Fiat-Nam (Trevico-Turin: journey in Fiat-Nã, 1973), which precedes the most fruitful period of his trajectory, from We were so loved (We who loved each other so much, 1974) onwards. In it, when narrating the story of the young Fortunato Santospirito, who migrates to Turin to work at FIAT, Ettore Scola outlines a panel of the political and union struggles that agitated Italy between the 1960s and 1970s.

The title of this militant film alludes to internal migration, which characterized Italy mainly in the 1960s, as a result of the economic recovery that predominantly affected the Northwest of the country, after it had recovered from the disasters of war. Trevico (where the director was born), a district of the city of Avellino, in the Campania region, therefore in the south of Italy, is a village like the one that Ettore Scola will portray in Splendor (Splendor, 1988). And Turin is one of the three great industrial cities of the North (alongside Milan and Genoa), where, in search of a better life, the vast majority of Italians from the South, but also from central regions (Tuscany) and from the northeast of the peninsula (Trentino and Friuli), as Trevico-Torino: travel by Fiat-Nam show.

In addition, the combination of the acronym FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) and the geographical designation Vietnam, by evoking the war fought at that time in Southeast Asia between two major ideological fronts, already translates the idea of ​​internal conflicts to be addressed in the work of Ettore Scola.

In the same context described in the article “The working class did not reach paradise”, published on the website the earth is round The story of the young Fortunato Santospirito (whose name and surname have a bitterly ironic connotation) is inserted, who arrives in Turin to work at FIAT exactly during the period of the so-called “hot autumn”, when the demands of the Italian working class intensified.

There, he got to know firsthand the exploitation and alienation to which the workers were subject and the treatment reserved by the local population for those who came from the South,[1] almost all indistinctly dubbed "Naples” (which would correspond to “paraíba” or “baiano”), although coming from locations other than the city of Naples,[2] as Ettore Scola himself recalls in an interview for the book italian political cinema: “Many of the southerners who worked in Turin experienced the contrasts, the difficulties of the new jobs firsthand. Let's try to imagine how difficult it could have been for them to appropriate gestures that had nothing in common with rural activity. There they were in front of unknown machines, and not by chance the percentage of accidents at work was very high. Not to mention the living conditions: at the beginning of the 1970s, Fiat still didn't have a cafeteria, and the workers took their lunchboxes from home and at lunchtime they began to eat among the machinery, or in the patios. Then they experienced another difficulty, linked to the fact that they did not have a working-class conscience: they were peasants and, therefore, did not know what union struggles were, the rights of workers. And then there was the city, that Turin so severe, cold, closed off that it often manifested an intolerance towards them that bordered on racism. A city where it was not difficult to find signs with the words 'Rooms for rent, but not for southerners'”.

the protagonist of Trevico-Torino: travel by Fiat-Nam he realizes the difficulty of inserting himself in the automated world of the factory – where he works as hard as in the fields, but there, at least, he knew what his work was for (as he himself will conclude at the end of the film) – and in that city , which you arrive on a foggy day and which you get to know, walking through the streets of the center, with its deteriorated buildings, which are intended for outsiders.[3]

The first and brief friendship he forms is with Beppe, son of a Sardinian mother and a Friulian father, an indication of an earlier migration and the entrenchment of discrimination, because, although the young man, who works in a bar, was born in Turin, he continues to be a be marginalized and exploited.

Thus, Fortunato, little by little, acquires a political conscience, when he meets the priest of a social assistance center, one of his almost countrymen (who speaks about the troubles of the exiled), when he resumes his studies in a night course and when he relates to a communist trade unionist and with Vicki, a young student who militates in lotta continues, with which he becomes emotionally involved.

The moment of the first meeting between Fortunato and Vicki is quite interesting: the girl appears, in the foreground, campaigning, while the boy moves behind her, to the right and to the left, as if he wanted to be focused by the camera to which the young man goes. In fact, it is a kind of erotic dance, which is repeated when Fortunato observes some mannequin heads wearing wigs – with their seductive eyes and their red, fleshy mouths, like Vicki's –, which, followed by the sequence in that he cries in the dorm room, lying on his bed, expresses well the idea of ​​desire and the repression of desire to be faced.

As Orio Caldiron, Elio Girlanda and Pietro Pisarra state, we are facing an example of militant cinema that photographs a human condition of malaise and marginalization, in which a private, delicately sentimental story was inserted.

The idyll between Fortunato and Vicki, although marked and truncated by the social differences between the two, is not improbable, since, as Scola recalls (in the aforementioned interview), soon after 1968 it was customary for university students to stand in front of the gates from FIAT to speak with the workers and to stir up even more the fight against the bosses, branded as fascists in the film, although this film does not focus on the division between the Italian Communist Party, which dominated trade unionism, and the extra-parliamentary groups, which contested this hegemony .[4]

And all those exploited by the bosses attend the demonstration in the big square, with its red flags, in which, as the film says, all of Italy is represented. In this sense, it is interesting to focus on a striker who unfurls his flag clinging to a statue that honors the emergence of the country as a nation, as if the union of Italian workers had not yet materialized, because they were excluded from that political unification brought about by the class. leader.

As FIAT management did not always allow shots inside its factories, Scola uses still images of the assembly line (over which he adds subtitles), which modulate the plot. What cannot be shown is commented on by the various characters or appears in the interviews carried out at the door of the Mirafiori factory. These are reminiscent of the short scenes that characterized the theater of agitprop, with the interviewers Vicki and Fortunato provoking, thanks to their questions, the game of agitation, to extract from the working class their point of view on the socio-political events that shook the country.

In this way, a record in which the spectator would see the functioning of the assembly line is replaced by the report of the conditions of this work, in which the worker coming from the field, when losing his affective, social and cultural roots, ceases to be a subject and becomes, in the neocapitalist world, a mere individual, that is, an object, as Alberto Moravia points out: “The idea is always the same: to explore the moribund rural universe without doing anything to help it become urban. So: no housing, no social assistance, no school, nothing at all; just the work of inhuman rhythms in any way and then the inhuman private life in squalid environments, practically for slaves (dormitories, peripheral belt, cafeterias, etc.)”.

Therefore, on several occasions, Trevico-Torino: travel by Fiat-Nam remembers that there should be work anywhere, without workers being forced to leave their home corner. At the end of the film, the tight succession of these still images, which alternate with the growing fatigue of the workers, visible on the tram or on the night course, translates well the idea of ​​how the rhythms imposed by the factory destroy people. And Fortunato, who, after fighting with the head of the division, is transferred to a factory farther from the center, where the work is much heavier, crushed by fatigue and feeling like a piece of waste (like the industrial waste of his sector), decides to abandon that life, expressing all his anguish in the final cry.

*Mariarosaria Fabris is a retired professor at the Department of Modern Letters at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other texts, of “Contemporary Italian Cinema”, that integrates the volume Contemporary world cinema (Papyrus).


BRUNETTA, Gian Piero. Story of the Italian cinema from 1945 agli anni ottanta. Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1982.

CALDIRON, Orio et al. “Trevico-Torino… Viaggio nel Fiat-Nam”. In: GIAMMATTEO, Fernaldo Di (org.). Dictionary of Italian cinema. Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1995.

MORAVIA, Alberto. “Quel train arrives in Turin”. In: Italian cinema: recensioni and interventi 1933-1990. Milano: Bompiani, 2010.

PRUDENZI, Angela; RESEGOTTI, Elisa. “Ettore Scola”. In: italian political cinema. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2006.


[1] Within Scola's filmography, Fortunato would be a kind of younger brother to the protagonists of Dramma della lattice – Everything I particolari in cronaca (Italian jealousy, 1970) e Allow? Rocco Papaleo (Rocco Papaleo, 1971), as Gian Piero Brunetta points out, and, in the gallery of characters that characterized the Italian political cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, he is still related to the small employees or workers of The place (Opposite, 1961), by Ermanno Olmi, “Renzo and Luciana”, episode of Boccaccio '70 (Boccaccio 70, 1963), by Mario Monicelli, The working class goes to heaven (The working class goes to paradise, 1971), by Elio Petri, and Mimi metallurgico ferito nell'onore (Mimi the Metalworker, 1972), by Lina Wertmüller, just to name a few examples.

[2] "Napoli” was the term used disparagingly to designate a southerner who had immigrated to the North. Its use is probably due to the fact that all regions of the South, except Sardinia, belonged to the Kingdom of Naples or Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, before the unification of the country (1860).

[3] The impact caused on the inhabitants of the South when they arrived in the cities of the North will be present in So they laughed (That's how you laugh, 1999), by Gianni Amelio, whose initial sequence also takes place in Turin and refers, in turn, to the arrival of the Sicilian family in cold Milan, in Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco and his brothers, 1960), by Luchino Visconti.

[4] This is perhaps because the filmmaker was affiliated with the Italian Communist Party and Unitelfilm (linked to the party) produced the film. For this production company, the director carried out some works, such as recording the festivals promoted by the PCI – Festival dell'Unità 1972 (1972) and Unità Festival (1973) – and the funeral of the last great communist leader – L'addio a Enrico Berlinguer (1984) –, which, together with a poll on lotta continues and some sequences shot in the Roman periphery in honor of Pier Paolo Pasolini (when he died), constitute what Scola calls documents, refusing to use the term documentary, since these works had little to do with cinema in the most strict (as stated in the aforementioned interview).

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