Nights of Cabiria Le notti di Cabiria (1957) is an Italian film directed by Federico Fellini.Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina, plays Cabiria Ceccarelli, a feisty but naive prostitute in Ostia, then a seedy section of Rome. In 1998 the film was rereleased, newly restored and with a crucial scene that censors had cut
The name Cabiria is borrowed from the 1914 Italian film Cabiria, while the character of Cabiria herself is taken from a brief scene in Fellini's earlier film The White Sheik. It was Masina's performance in that earlier film that inspired Fellini to make this film But no one in Italy was willing to finance a film which featured prostitutes as heroines. Finally, Dino de Laurentiis agreed to put up the money. Fellini based some of the characters on a real prostitute whom he had met while filming Il Bidone, and for added authenticity he had Pier Paolo Pasolini, whom he considered an authority on prostitutes, help with the script The American musical and movie Sweet Charity is based on Fellini's screenplay>
The film opens with Cabiria happy and laughing, on a river bank with her current boyfriend and live-in lover. He pushes her into the river and steals her purse which is full of money. She cannot swim and very nearly drowns, but is rescued and revived at the last possible moment by helpful ordinary people who live a little further down the river.
The rest of the plot follows Cabiria as she plies her trade, interacts with her best friend and neighbor Wanda, and searches for a chance to better her life. She is frequently mistreated and taken advantage of, but she has some interesting adventures, and manages to keep her basic attitude to life positive.
Eventually she meets a man who seems genuinely kind and who promises her a happy future. At first she is cautious and suspicious, but after several meetings she falls head over heels in love with him and they get married after only a few weeks. During the honeymoon, Cabiria's husband walks with her hand-in-hand to a seacliff, where he becomes shakingly nervous and violent. Cabiria realizes that, just like her earlier lover, her husband intends to toss her into the sea in order to steal her money. She abandons her purse at his feet in tears, and cries in convulsions on the dirt. After some hours, she picks herself up, and stumbles down the road in tears. In the film's most famous scene, as Cabiria walks the long road back to town, dozens of young people riding motorcycles, dancing, shouting to each other happily, and running on the road appear one at a time, and form an impromptu parade behind her, dancing and playing music, as Cabiria begins to grin through her tears.
At the time of the film's first release, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a mixed review: "Like La strada and several other of the post-war Italian neo-realistic films, this one is aimed more surely toward the development of a theme than a plot. Its interest is not so much the conflicts that occur in the life of the heroine as the deep, underlying implications of human pathos that the pattern of her life shows...But there are two weaknesses in Cabiria. It has a sordid atmosphere and there is something elusive and insufficient about the character of the heroine. Her get-up is weird and illogical for the milieu in which she lives and her farcical mannerisms clash with the ugly realism of the theme
Forty years later, the Times carried a new review by Crowther's successor, Janet Maslin. She called the film "a cinematic masterpiece", and added that the final shot of Cabiria is worth more than "all the fire-breathing blockbusters Hollywood has to offer
In a review, film critic Roger Ebert mostly writes about the film's plot and Fellini's background, and wrote, "Fellini's roots as a filmmaker are in the postwar Italian Neorealist movement (he worked for Rossellini on Rome, Open City in 1945), and his early films have a grittiness that is gradually replaced by the dazzling phantasms of the later ones. Nights of Cabiria is transitional; it points toward the visual freedom of La dolce vita while still remaining attentive to the real world of postwar Rome. The scene involving the good samaritan provides a framework to show people living in city caves and under bridges, but even more touching is the scene where Cabiria turns over the keys of her house to the large and desperately poor family that has purchased it