Bitter Rice

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"An earthy drama of human passions among women rice workers in the Po Valley."
  • NR
  • 1949
  • 1 hr 48 min
  • 7.6  (4,802)

Bitter Rice is a 1949 Italian neorealist film that was directed by Giuseppe De Santis, starring Silvana Mangano, Doris Dowling, and Vittorio Gassman. The movie takes place in the Po Valley, where the yearly rice harvest provides income and work for thousands of people. The story follows the lives of two women, Walter (Doris Dowling) and Silvana (Silvana Mangano), who take part in the backbreaking labor.

Bitter Rice opens with an extremely long shot of the Po Valley, which emphasizes the vastness of the rice paddies and the sheer number of workers. Soon after, the movie introduces Walter and Silvana, two very different women who develop an unlikely friendship. Walter is an American woman who has fallen in love with a charismatic thief named Marco (Vittorio Gassman). Together, they plan to steal the farm's crop of precious diamonds.

Silvana is a beautiful, young woman who is in a tumultuous relationship with Walter's lover, Marco. She dreams of leaving the life of hard labor and finding happiness in the arms of a good man. However, she is trapped in a cycle of poverty and insecurity. When Walter and Marco arrive on the farm, their presence upends the fragile equilibrium of the community of rice workers.

Unlike other neorealist films, Bitter Rice does not try to show a slice of life, but rather focuses on the dramatic tension of the story. The movie depicts the harsh realities of poverty and explores the injustices of the Italian social structure. The film also delves into the conflicts between different social and economic classes.

Throughout the movie, director Giuseppe De Santis makes use of the natural environment to metaphorically reflect the unfolding events. In one beautiful scene, Silvana dances in the rain, symbolizing her longing to escape the oppressive life of a rice worker. De Santis also uses camera angles to convey a sense of unbalance and instability, as the characters' lives and emotions become increasingly upended.

Another interesting aspect of Bitter Rice is its portrayal of gender relations in post-war Italy. The film depicts the prejudices and power dynamics between men and women, as well as the ways in which these dynamics can be subverted. Walter, a fiercely independent woman, is unafraid to speak her mind, even to Marco - the man she loves. Silvana, meanwhile, is a victim of the patriarchal society in which she lives. She yearns for a way out of her servitude, but finds herself trapped by societal norms.

Overall, Bitter Rice is an interesting and thought-provoking film that offers a glimpse into Italian neorealist cinema of the late 1940s. With its focus on the struggles of working-class people and its exploration of complex gender dynamics, the movie transcends the limitations of its genre and continues to be relevant today.

Bitter Rice is a 1949 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 48 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.6.

Bitter Rice
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 48 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.6  (4,802)