The Leopard

Il Gattopardo

Luchino Visconti, Italy, France, 1963


Visconti started his work in cinema as a head costumier.  He became a film maker whilst also working as a director in both theatre and opera.  He paid great attention to set design, set dressing, and costumes in his own films.  He liked to orchestrate and film large ballroom scenes, such as this one, which allowed him to explore both his cinematic passions and that of interior decorator and painter.

This scene starts with wide shots where we see rows of masterfully matched coloured costumes processing.  The shots of the dance are arranged in the manner of classic group shots. In line with the shape of the room the colours change, much as in a room where the red of the seats dominates.

The scene then takes a radical change in register and colour.  We pass from one scene of a genre, and group, to a very austere portrait of the Prince, looking at himself in the mirror, where the colour has practically disappeared. The Prince’s face is detached from his black costume and white shirt, framed in a close up like a portrait.  A wider shot then locates him in a room with a yellow, lifeless tint, which is that of the bathroom, where even the furnishings are black.  The character moves and a cupboard of urinals are revealed to the audience, where white rounds of porcelain are stored, such as in a painting or in a modern art installation.  The Prince’s movement brings us back to the ballroom, in the early morning, where all the lively colours of the dancers’ dresses seem to have been dimmed with the end of the night of the party.


classic painting.