Adapting to Heterocentricity: The Film Versions of Umberto Saba’s Ernesto and Giorgio Bassani’s The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles

  • William Van Watson
Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)


Umberto Saba’s Ernesto and Giorgio Bassani’s The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles are two minor classics of modern Italian literature that have been adapted to the cinema. Both tell stories of homosexual relationships between males of different ages and different class backgrounds. In adapting these works to film, directors Salvatore Samperi and Giuliano Montaldo also adapt their homosexual subject matter to a persistent heterocentric filmgo-ing hegemony. Both directors invent female characters and heterosexual romances to offset or “straighten out” the homosexual affairs central to the original works. Certainly, the change in medium impacts the treatment and presentation of the subject matter, as novels are read individually and in private, while film traditionally addresses a mass audience in a public space. Beyond the simple dichotomy of heterosexual directors approaching homosexual characters lies the issue of acceptance of alterity Both Saba and Bassani, in distinctly different ways, observe their homosexual characters as an other self. For Saba, Ernesto represents his own alternative life not lived, while for Bassani, Athos Fadigati’s homosexuality serves as an objective correlative for the Jewishness of his narrator, as both confront an increasingly rigorous fascist sexual and racial normativity With their limited use of subjective camera in the treatment of homosexuality, Samperi and Montaldo perpetrate a shift in narrative voice, so that cinematically the homosexual characters appear not as other selves but as others.


Female Character Concert Hall Homosexual Relationship Jewish Heritage Free Indirect Discourse 
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© Gary P. Cestaro 2004

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  • William Van Watson

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