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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Pregnant Inflation

Umberto D. (1952) on IMDb

Plot Overview

The Big Bells toll the opening. Viewed from below they are on cross axes with each other, tolling sympathetic vibrations as well as fundamental, I am sure. This movie set in post­war (1952) Italy concerns a seventy-year-old pensioner Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) and the kitchen maid (la servetta) Maria (Maria Pia Casilio) in the pensione where they live. Post­war inflation has caused Umberto D. to fall behind on his rent, and his land­lady (la padrona di case) Antonia Belloni (Lina Gennari) is threatening to evict him at the end of the month if he can't come up with it. He gathers part by selling stuff, but Antonia insists on, “All or nothing.” Mean­while, work­men are tearing out one wall of his room, because “she wants to make one big formal living room.”

Maria has her own problem (“Did you know I'm pregnant?”) She's three months along, and as soon as she starts showing she will be fired. The father is either one of two soldiers: a short one from Florence or a tall one from Naples. You'd think that having two possibilities would increase her chances of landing one of them, but it doesn't work that way. Similarly, Umberto being between the nanny state that's not interested in raising his pension and the traditional family (non-existent) or friends (unwilling) is similarly left high and dry. It seems their potential bene­factors each thinks responsibility should be fobbed off on the other guy. The soldiers are still friendly toward Maria, but for her it's all or nothing, as well; she needs a full commitment.

The movie follows Umberto D. and his dog Flike as he stoically explores his options while Maria's expressive face reveals her suffering in silence.


Following the one around in terms of the other, Umberto D. first tries what we shall call the "miscarriage solution." He gets sick and laid up in the hospital for a while, Flike runs off, is captured by the pound, and is likely to get gassed … end of story if he doesn't get well.

There's the "foster home option" where he thinks of spending his remaining capital to lodge little Flike at a doggie boarding house, but he learns that the mutt will be shooed away once its paid-for time has expired.

There's the "adoption option", but the burgeoning postwar families have enough on their plates with­out taking on another tyke. That brings us to the "abortion option." Umberto D. stands by the tracks ready to throw the unwanted doggie "tissue mass" under he wheels of a train, but can he go through with it? For that matter it's dangerous for him as well.

In the end Maria might hope that the landlady can refrain from firing her until the presumed father from Naples owns up, along the lines of (Job 31:13-15):


  13. If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;
  14. What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?
  15. Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?

And Umberto D. might hope his landlady refrains from evicting him until the government raises his pension, this along the lines of (Job 31:16-23):


  16. If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;
  17. Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof;
  18. (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb;)
  19. If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;
  20. If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
  21. If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:
  22. Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.
  23. For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.

That would be a happy Hollywood ending. But this is not a Hollywood picture; it's Italian Neo-Realism.

Production Values

This film, “Umberto D.” (1952) was directed by Vittorio De Sica. Cesare Zavattini (1902–1989) wrote the script. It stars Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, and Lina Gennari. Carlo Battisti who played Umberto D. and Maria Pia Casilio who played Maria were green amateurs in keeping with the neorealistic school of film. How­ever, they both distinguished them­selves in their roles. Gennari, who was a professional, seemed synthetic by comparison. The little spotted terrier Flike (a.k.a. Flag) was played by a trained dog named Napoleone. The dog is extraordin­arily well-trained and at times steals the show.

Where this film is rated it's given a PG, probably on account of its troubling thematic elements. The film's black and white cinema­tog­raphy by Aldo Graziati is clear and crisp. His camera movements never disrupt the simple tale.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Italy stopped making Neo-Realism films after this one because they reflected poorly on the country. It does garner sympathy, though, for the disen­fran­chised whom one will find in any country. It does get a bit schmaltzy, and the ending is left up in the air, but it's well made for what it does.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of four.