Keimena #28: Don Giovanni

Monday June 26, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Don Giovanni, 1970, Italy, 73 min.
Director: Carmelo Bene

Carmelo Bene’s 1971 film Don Giovanni is not an adaptation of a famous Don Juan story. Instead, the film critically investigates the multifaceted legend of the wealthy male sinner who seduces one woman after another. This is a film about Don Juanism.

Bene’s Don Giovanni does not add to the history of representations of Don Juan. It subtracts from it. Bene removes characters, conflicts, and even the wealthy libertine’s list of female lovers. Bene’s Don Juan is a ladies man only in his own warped mind.

Bene was a radical Italian theater-maker who turned to film in 1968. As director, writer, producer, and star, he made five experimental feature films in five years. In 1973, Bene abandoned cinema and returned to theater because, as he quickly realized, his way of making films was too exhausting.

The soundtrack to Bene’s Don Giovanni includes amplified whispering and stuttering voices, reverberating sound effects and excerpts from opera and classical music.

Words do not solely communicate meaning. They evoke feelings.

Viewers: Don’t frustrate yourselves by trying to follow a plot!

This is a film about performance, gestures, emotions, and situations.

Bene’s Don Giovanni has over 4,000 shots in 73 minutes. The film chops up actions, gestures and spaces. Characters struggle to complete simple tasks. Bene’s Don Juan can’t even finish a sentence, let alone seduce a women.

Bene’s Don Giovanni is an expressionistic chamber drama about male impotence. It removes Don Juanism from the legend of heterosexual male promiscuity. Heterosexual coupling doesn’t work! Question gender and sexual norms! Don’t add to history; rethink it!

—Marc Siegel, film scholar and curator

Posted in Public TV on 06.26.2017