A film by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet
2000, 123 minutes
No. 125

A peasant tradition of making homemade ricotta cheese on a wood-burning fire becomes an act of resistance in this unforgettable film.

Amateur actors from the regional Buti theater, many of them ordinary laborers and farmers, recite or read passages from Elio Vittorini’s Marxist novella Women of Messina, their singularly musical voices ringing out as one in the verdant forest.

The story, which Italo Calvino called a “choral narrative,” centers on a group of workers and peasants who rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the Second World War by rebuilding a destroyed village and forming a utopian community.

"I was riveted by the extraordinary way their deliveries were directed and orchestrated as well as by the beautiful ways that the characters were framed and filmed (most often from slightly low angles) and that their voices were recorded in relation to the natural setting. What they were saying wasn't esoteric — how to make risotto was one of the topics — and the film qualifies as heroic portraiture because it's concerned more with who and where its human subjects are than with what they do as characters." - Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Chicago Reader