Based on the book, Primo Levi. Degreed in chemistry, Primo Levi was a Jewish socialist in Italy, where "racial laws" restricted Jewish freedom and prospects. Ten years after the writer’s suicide, Francesco Rosi’s English-language La tregua dramatized the 24-year-old Levi’s long, arduous journey home to Turin after being liberated from Auschwitz, where he had spent fifteen months for anti-Fascist resistance activities. "[L]ost, emptied, atrophied-unfit for our newfound liberty": Levi thus describes himself and other death camp survivors. We hear this as voiceover as we look at his exhausted face. The war in Europe is nearing its end. Rosi’s film proves an uneven odyssey, an exterior rendering of events burdened by profound interiority. It is the emotional account that’s missing from Rosi’s prodigious storytelling, even when the "emotion" involved is only a kind of numbness. Steeped in the tradition of neorealismo, Rosi isn’t sufficiently modernist to provide an inside-out view of Levi, his stay at a Soviet "rehabilitation" camp, and his homeward trek. At the Soviet camp, a recording of someone (not Fred) singing "Cheek to Cheek" is prelude to a lovely, heart-grazing passage consisting of closeups of faces of those being "rehabilitated"-men and women making eye-contact, followed by their silent couplings on a makeshift dance floor, in one instance, with a girl’s head in poignant rest on a boy’s shoulder. Rosi’s film, then, has its moments. Another also consists of a montage of haunted faces, with Levi and comrades coming upon a group of Germans. Voiceover: "We felt we had something to say … to every German, and every German had something to say to us." Levi’s own words, from his autobiography, elevate the script. Rosi’s closing freeze frame makes good use of John Turturro’s drawn, somber face once Levi is seated in his study back home. DVD, 118 minutes, R
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