Bernardo Bertolucci's Il conformista (The Conformist) (1970), a political drama set
in Mussolini's Fascist Italy, is widely recognised as a masterpiece of post-war
cinema, a classic of Italian and European cinema and an inspiration for many
other film-makers, particularly those of the American New Wave.
Christopher Wagstaff's illuminating study of the film traces its pre-production
and production history, considering how Bertolucci adapted Alberto Moravia's
source novel for the screen. He provides a careful analysis of Il conformista's
formal, stylistic and aesthetic strategies, paying close attention to editing,
lighting and mise en scène, and their contribution to the film's impact. Wagstaff
also addresses debates about the sexual politics of the film and its place in a
wider political and cultural debate about the legacy of fascism.
This special edition of Il conformista is published to celebrate the 20th
anniversary of the BFI Film Classics series.
CHRISTOPHER WAGSTAFF is a senior ;ecturer in the Department of Italian at the University of Reading, UK. His interests include futurist art and literature, and the media in twentieth-century Italy. His principal area of expertise is the cinema industry in Italy, on which he has lectured and published extensively, both in this country and abroad. He is at present working on a study of post-war Italian cinema. He is the author of Italian Neo-Realist Cinema: An Aesthetic Approach (University of Toronto Press, 2008).
I’m a London based artist from Istanbul. I studied illustration at Central Saint Martins, and whilst there developed a love for traditional printmaking and collage, which led me to begin collecting paper ephemera, 50s fashion catalogues and old family photos to populate detailed compositions. I worked as a freelance illustrator for a year after graduating and did an MA in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins afterwards.
In 2010, I joined Heart Agency, who represent me both in the UK and the US. Since then I have worked for a range of design and editorial clients including Bafta, The New York Times, Herman Miller, Krug Champagne, and BFI. I’m also a founding contributor of Nobrow.
Could you explain the concept of your cover design? How does your artwork convey the themes/motifs of Il Conformista (The Conformist)?
I really liked the 1930s spaces in the film, especially the grand halls and décor of the Fascist era. Although the film was in colour, there was a subdued look to it and the light and shadow contrasts were very strong. I wanted to convey this aesthetic in my artwork, as well as focusing on the main character Marcello Clerici in action. He’s hired to assassinate his old professor, and most of the events and flashbacks revolve around his feelings about violence. Him looking slightly paranoid holding a gun seemed to capture the theme.
What techniques and materials did you use to create your artwork?
I used marbling and monoprint textures to create the background space. I’ve put all the elements together digitally at the end.
What is your earliest film memory?
Not many of the Disney films were available in Turkey when I was growing up, so I remember getting the VCR cassettes from my uncle who lived in the States. The packages made me so happy and I could always tell when they arrived because of the amount of stamps and stickers on them. I cherished them and watched them over and over. I didn’t speak English then so I remember bothering my mother to explain what was going on.
What inspires you?
It’s hard to pinpoint everything but mostly architecture and film. The eras of these tend to change depending on what I’m working on. Recently I started being interested in the 70s sci-fi look as well as interior and textile designs from the Bauhaus era.
I always had a love and tendency towards anything 50s which is very clear in my work. The fashion, advertising, and design from that time interest me. I have a large collection of ephemera as a result, and I always mix a part of this collection in my work even if it’s a current theme. I like making imagery that has a retro feel but still look modern.
What are you working on now?
I just completed a project for a Krug Champagne event in Hong Kong and getting ready for a bit of a break at the moment. I’m collecting collage materials and making new textures to use in my work when things get hectic again.