For Reel

The White Angel (1955)
February 15, 2016, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Raffaello Matarazzo
4 Stars
The White AngelThe second half of a diptych melodrama from Raffaello Matarazzo, The White Angel continues the plot threads of Nobody’s Children, but additionally ads an almost mystical dimension with the appearance of a woman who looks exactly like Luisa (Yvonne Sanson), the lover-turned-nun that was the object of Count Guido’s obsession (Amedeo Nazzari) in the first installment. As with Hitchcock’s Vertigo three years later, the doppelgänger becomes a means of “doing over” one’s past, allowing the potential for self-destructive immersion therapy. In their first encounter, Guido does little but stare at Lina longingly before falling mysteriously ill. Along with her beauty, however, Lina’s appearance spells a whole new chain of disastrous events, the hands of fate not quite done with these characters. What distinguishes The White Angel is not just the pre-Vertigo treatment of obsession, but that it is film with a wealth of female characters playing nearly every archetype. Sanson herself plays both the nun and a swindler, and in the latter half of the picture Lina finds herself in a women’s prison, where one of her fellow inmates will endanger a child. Melodramas often deal with topics of femininity, but rarely does one see the sheer breadth of character types as in The White Angel. Furthermore, Matarazzo’s fixation on the highly-Catholic narrative reaches a beautifully poetic destination, marking enormous character changes and suggesting that a new chapter will be wrought out of all of the misery that has been endured.

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