Parma, 1962. Balancing between his Marxist ideology and his forced integration into the system, the twenty-year-old student, Fabrizio, is both repelled and attracted by his parents’ bourgeois way of life. Still unable to come to terms with the untimely demise of a dear friend, and while preparing for his marriage to his statuesque and affluent but apolitical girlfriend, Clelia, Fabrizio finds himself distracted after the sudden arrival of the refined but troubled Milanese Aunt Gina. Now, confused, Fabrizio has no other choice but to give in to lust. Will Fabrizio embrace fate and his predestined ordinary life?
User Reviews: While hailed as many as a masterpiece (or near), I struggled with Bertolucci’s 2nd film, made when he was only 23, although I am a fan of his in general. Beautifully shot, great use of music and unconventional editing, the film is excellent on a film-making and craft level (although it perhaps borrows too liberally from leading film-makers of the era, especially Godard, Antonioni and Resnais).
The story of a young bourgeois man trying to come to terms with his tear between his attraction to communism and his desire for an easier life leads him into an incestuous affair with his somewhat older aunt. I found it’s themes somewhat muddled, alternating between being heavy-handedly spelled out, or so obtuse I wasn’t sure what a given scene was saying.
The acting in particular seems a bit all over the place; understated to the point of flatness in one scene, and then almost theatrically over the top the next. At the end I felt glad I’d seen the film, but it didn’t stick with me the way Bertolucci’s first film "La Commare Secca" or his third "Partner" did. ("Partner" deals with some of the same themes, but in a far more playful, often comedic way). There was a film-school sort of pretentiousness and emotional distance in "Before the Revolution that kept me from feeling moved or from being led to think deeply about the ideas.
That said, I am willing to revisit it and see if my reaction changes, and certainly I enjoyed Bertolucci’s already masterful use of image and sound, even if the ends he was using them to were a bit muddled.