Rocco and His Brothers

Rocco and His Brothers

Italian theatrical release poster
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Produced by Goffredo Lombardo
Screenplay by Luchino Visconti
Suso Cecchi D'Amico
Pasquale Festa Campanile
Massimo Franciosa
Enrico Mediola
Story by Suso Cecchi d'Amico
Luchino Visconti
Vasco Pratolini
Based on Il ponte della Ghisolfa
by Giovanni Testori
Starring Alain Delon
Renato Salvatori
Annie Girardot
Katina Paxinou
Spiros Focás
Max Cartier
Rocco Vidolazzi
Music by Nino Rota
Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno
Edited by Mario Serandrei
Les Films Marceau [1]
Distributed by Astor Pictures Corporation[2]
Release dates
  • 6 September 1960 (1960-09-06) (Italy)
  • 26 June 1961 (1961-06-26) (United States)
Running time
177 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian
Box office

2,173,480 admissions (France)[3]

$11,328 gross (Italy)[4]

Rocco e i suoi fratelli (English: Rocco and His Brothers) is a 1960 Italian film directed by Luchino Visconti, inspired by an episode from the novel Il ponte della Ghisolfa by Giovanni Testori. Set in Milan, it tells the story of an immigrant family from the South and its disintegration in the society of the industrial North. The title is a combination of Thomas Mann's Joseph and his Brothers and the name of Rocco Scotellaro, an Italian poet who described the feelings of the peasants of southern Italy.[5]

The film stars Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, and Claudia Cardinale, in one of her early roles before she became internationally known.[6] The film's score was composed by Nino Rota.

Parts of the movie scenes were filmed in Lierna, Lake Como.


After the death of his father, Rocco Parondi (Alain Delon), one of the five sons of a poor rural Italian family travels north from Lucania to join his older brother Vincenzo in Milan, led by the matriarch Rosaria (Katina Paxinou). She is the "hand to which the five fingers belong" as she states in the film and she has a powerful influence on her sons. Presented in five distinct sections, the film weaves the story of the five brothers Vincenzo, Simone, Rocco, Ciro and Luca Parondi as each of them adapts to his new life in the city.

Vincenzo, the eldest brother, is already living in Milan when his mother and brothers come to join him expecting to move in with him. An initial scene ensues between the Parondi family and Vincenzo's fiancée Ginetta's family, and the whole Parondi family moves in together. Despite early friction between Rosaria and Ginetta, he soon gets married and starts a family of his own. After settling down, Vincenzo doesn't interact much with the Parondi brothers. Simone struggles to adapt to urban life, and the arrival of Nadia (Annie Girardot), a prostitute from Cremona will lead to his tragic downfall. She incites him to pursue a career in boxing as a fast way to reach fame and wealth, which his mother also encourages. After initially pursuing Vincenzo only to find him happy in his new family life, Nadia turns her interest to Simone. Simone falls in love with Nadia and demands for more than a casual relationship, but she rejects him.

Rocco, who left to complete military service in Turin, meets Nadia who has just been released from jail for prostitution charges. His innocence and purity of heart ignites her to give up her old life style and enter an exclusive relationship with him. Upon becoming aware of this, Simone attacks Nadia and Rocco with a gang of friends, culminating in the rape of Nadia by Simone. Rocco subsequently, in an act of sheer sacrifice, tells Nadia to go back to Simone realizing how much he had hurt his brother and how much he loved her, and she reluctantly complies. Somewhat in the manner of Dostoyevsky's Prince Myshkin character; Rocco often acts to preserve the well-being of family members at some cost to his own happiness. He saves Simone from a variety of disasters, such as when Rocco recovers and returns an expensive brooch that Simone had stolen from his boss in a dry cleaning shop. Ultimately, Simone loses the ability to compete as a boxer because of his obsession with Nadia, his alcoholism, and dissolute lifestyle. He kills her in a jealous fit of rage when she returns to prostitution.

Near the end of the film, Rocco shares an anecdote about stonemasons, who at the start of any building project, throw a stone into the shadow of a passerby in order to symbolize the sacrifice that is needed to erect a structure. Rocco's own habit of sacrificing his money and well-being can be likewise analogized as attempts to preserve his family after their upheaval from country life. Ciro is the second-youngest brother, and perhaps by observing the trials of his elder brothers, decides to learn from their mistakes and mimic his brother Vincenzo. To that end, Ciro becomes engaged to a local woman from a good family and finds steady work in the city at an automobile factory. However, unlike Vincenzo, Ciro participates in family matters, and at the end of the movie, he turns in Simone to the police for murdering Nadia. The youngest brother Luca does little but watch quietly in the background during much of the movie. Despite the fact that Luca had spent the least time in Southern Italy when the family moved to Milan, by the end of the film he is the only brother who wants to return to the country life. In one of the last scenes, Luca speaks to Ciro near a factory and tells him that he will return to the south even if none of the other brothers join him. He is represented as the hope for a more balanced idealised future in which the two worlds will merge in spite of their discrepancies.



During the spring of 1960, the original plan to shoot the murder scene at the end of the film in a large recreational area in Idroscalo was refused by civil servants of the provincial administration. This was due to an “inopportune resemblance to reality” of the scene to be shot to the recent murder of a young prostitute in the area. The film was later seized by police officers and lawyers after Cardinal Tardini’s request that officials take action against “certain destructive films”. They demanded that four scenes be cut or the film would be confiscated and the producer prosecuted; however, after negotiations, Lombardo agreed to darken the critical scenes within the film with filters; two of these darkened scenes were omitted entirely.[7]


Box office

The film was the 27th most popular film of the year in France.[8]

Critical response

The film critic for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther, gave the film a positive review and appreciated the direction of the film and acting. He wrote, "A fine Italian film to stand alongside the American classic, The Grapes of Wrath, opened last night ...It is Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli), and it comes here garlanded with laurels that are quite as appropriate in this context as they are richly deserved...Signor Visconti has clearly conceived his film and that is what his brilliant handling of events and characters makes one feel. There's a blending of strong emotionalism and realism to such an extent that the margins of each become fuzzy and indistinguishable...Alain Delon as the sweet and loyal touchingly pliant and expressive, but it is Renato Salvatori ...who fills the screen with the anguish of a tortured and stricken character. His raw and restless performance is overpowering and unforgettable...[and the] French actress Annie Girardot is likewise striking as the piteous prostitute..."[9]

The staff at Variety magazine lauded the drama, and wrote, "With all its faults, this is one of the top achievements of the year in Italy...Scripting shows numerous hands at work, yet all is pulled together by Visconti's dynamic and generally tasteful direction. Occasionally, as in the near-final revelation to the family of Simone's crime, the action gets out of hand and comes close to melodrama. Yet the impact of the main story line, aided by the sensitive, expertly guided playing of Alain Delon as Rocco, Annie Girardot as the prostitute, and Renato Salvatori as Simone, is great. Katina Paxinou at times is perfect, at others she is allowed to act too theatrically and off-key."[10]

When the film was released in DVD format, critic Glenn Erickson said, "A major pleasure of Rocco and his Brothers is simply seeing its portrait of life in working-class Milan in 1960. Beautifully directed in the housing projects and streets of the city, this is a prime example of a film which will accrue historical interest simply because it shows so much of how people lived and what places looked like (now) 40 years ago."[11]



See also


  1. FILM DISTRIBUTOR PLANS EXPANSION: Astor Pictures Officials Will Outline New Program of Co-Production Deals By EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 Feb 1961: 12.
  2. Box Office information for Rocco and His Brothers at Box Office Story
  3. Henry Bacon, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p.105
  4. Rocco and His Brothers at the Internet Movie Database.
  5. Henry Bacon, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 102-103
  6. French box office for 1961 at Box Office Story
  7. Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, January 28, 1961. Last accessed: December 31, 2007.
  8. Variety. Film review, September 6, 1960. Last accessed: December 31, 2007.
  9. Erikson, Eric. DVD Savant, DVD/film review, November 11, 2001. Last accessed: December 2, 2009.
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