Who And What Invests Into A Fascist (Totalitarian) System More – People Who Directly Commit Crimes And The Totalitarian Ideology Itself Or The Conformists And Conformist Mass Culture (That, As If Is Outside Of Fascist Ideology)?

Conformists-philistines (During Fascist Periods) and Philistines-conformists (During Post- and Pre-fascist Periods)


Bernardo Bertolucci (1941-2018)

In one of his interviews about the film Bertolucci confessed how psychologically difficult it was to go through making the film – how the monstrosity of the characters and their feelings about life and other people was poisoning him and the actors. The film is not depicting the Concentration Camps, incineration of people alive or séances of torture, although in the film about the period in and around WWII was impossible to avoid visual comments about human physical cruelties towards other humans. “Monstrosity of feelings and the characters” carrying them belong to the conformists, not direct fascists, to people who successfully or almost successfully adapted to fascism and are not “genuine” fascists. Of course, the “almost successful adaptation” personified by Marcello Clerici, doesn’t mean that conformists didn’t participate in fascism, more, very often they “helped” it to a much stronger degree than many “genuine” fascists.

Unfortunately, before Bertolucci film-directors weren’t able to make the “tricky” differentiation between a totalitarian (fascist) style of perceiving the world and conformist manner of accepting the fascist status quo without “complete” surrendering to it with your soul. Conformists – intelligent and often educated people oriented on a very good life, were living happily during the intervals between wars and continued to do so under the Fascist regimes. These Middle- and Upper-Middle-classers were even more widespread “collaborators” than the perverted combination of unity between the fanatical rightwing leaders and their fanatical supporters among poor. People with soft-gentle manners, delicate feelings and rather sharp minds, like Marcello Clerici (played by an emotionally sophisticated actor Jean-Louis Trintignant) apply for prestigious jobs in any political system including totalitarian/fascist ones, as soon as it’s in between their orientation on prosperity if not “by any price”, then at least “first of all”, and their “financial gourmet tastes”. What else for them to do except smiling to people from whom depend our decent salaries? The widespread expressions “decent job” and “decent money” already long ago lost moral and aesthetic connotation and used in a conformist way defining monetary reward. In short, people with good education need to have decent jobs even in a totalitarian – fascist systems. Without conformists Nazi leaders could use only lower ranks and low level of qualification.

The conformist monstrosity Bertolucci depicts in the film is not obvious hate for people or human stupidity based on the megalomaniacal beliefs in “our exceptionality” (euphemism for “superiority”) – it’s several social structures internalized by our unconscious – the desire for financially prosperous life, the psychological need for fundamentalist marriage, proneness for playful amorous games, proclivity to recruit people into political fight “on our side” using authoritarian overtones, and love for being entertained and for mass culture in general. Combination of these “innocent” features, according to Bertolucci’s film is the assortment of conformist behavior not only in pre- and post-fascist periods, but also during totalitarian or fascist historical epochs. Those who are philistines in a non-fascist societies are conformists in a fascist ones (in reality philistines are conformists of non-fascist/non-totalitarian societies).

Conformist or mass entertainment culture


Marcello met mass culture of entertainment long before he applied for a prestigious job of a secret service agent in Mussolini’s government


Piano, string music and girls-singers were emotional and aesthetic prelude to the start of Marcello’s successful career


Simultaneously liberating and seducing music touched his heart as the smooth female faces and bodies – his soul

Building of mutual help relationships


Soon after becoming a secret agent, Marcello betrays his mother in order to, through his new colleague Manganiello, prove to his new bosses that he is a reliable human being


Manganiello came to Marcello’s aid when he has lost confidence in himself after being pressed by his love Anna into becoming an antifascist fighter


Playing with Marcello the incarnation of the experienced and courageous power Manganiello overcomes Marcello’s neurotic weakness and restores his self-confidence.

Fundamentalist marriage of iron ties and gentle gust of amorous distraction


Marcello’s passion with his wife Jiulia (Stefania Sandrelli) is imitative to its core


Oh, how elegant – how genuine mutuality respects individual will!


Marital love will not be love if at least sometimes it’s not be a bit voracious and even predatory


Marcello is in love. In a certain moment he even offers Anna (Dominique Sanda) to forget everything and go with him to Brazil, but Anna has another plans – she wants Marcello to join her and her husband in antifascist intrigue

Playing funny and gracious games


Oh, how wonderful and daring to joke-dance in front of the simpleminded people who take everything so seriously!


Oh, how incredible to be admired!


How monumental and irresistible people’s positive attention – “people will remember us for a long time”!

Anna and Professor Quadri‘s political heroism


Cognitive weakness of the intellectuals – underestimation of the barbarity and ruthlessness of the right-wing activists, fascists and to a certain degree – conformists


Anna is too straightly insisting on Marcello to become her and Luca’s antifascist ally and this makes him to be stubborn and resisting


Luca made a pact with Anna should he be killed by the fascists she will inform the whole world about what fascists done to him. She, trying to overcome her feelings, agreed for the sake of their antifascist victory. But to win it’s necessary to have help – Marcello‘s.


But Marcello refuses to help and leaves Anna to the fascist murderers (not because of her authoritarian impatience with him, of course)

“Liberation” from conformism and looking to a future of pleasant philistinism


We thought we’re saying goodbye to Marcello Clerici-the conformist seeing him still “imprisoned” by his prosperous life under the fascist regime, but…


Fascist regime has changed – now Marcello looks at a young homosexual with a graciously seductive gesticulation. He looks through the iron bars, as if – outside of fascism, but “sexual freedom” will not liberate Marcello. He will continue to live a life fighting for personal and his family’s prosperity and enjoy mass-cultural vanity. Probably, but not necessarily he will have a new wife. Instead of being a conformist he will be a philistine – that is conformist of post-fascism. He will continue to lead a consumerist semi-existence based on social inequality and injustice, less aggressive and hateful than it was under fascism until a new fascist wave will come, probably, more impatient, greedy and cruel than before.