This film is the unsettlingl tale of a gifted upper crust man who sells his soul to become a super-Fascist in Mussolini’s Italy. While Hitler’s Nazis were flamboyant and wore gaudily distinctive uniforms the Italian fascists flew somewhat under the radar. They valued loyalty above all else and give our nicely tailored anti-hero Clerici the horrid test of murdering his anti-fascist professor from varsity days (and now living in Paris as war looms).
His contribution to that awful crime is both sketchy and unenthusiastic. He shamelessly falls for the professor’s wife despite his being on honeymoon with the shallow woman he married in order to be seen to conform. As the husband is stabbed to death by thugs and his wife flees Clerici stands idly by frozen in chronic indifference.
When Mussolini falls, men like Clerici blusteringly denounce “fascist assassins” while knowing that they will always look over their shoulders fearful of those who know the truth. At one level this film is delightful eye candy with its stunning art deco sets and dazzling cinematography in wooded alpine scenes. But the central tale of a glib coward and place-seeker is told in such a way as to convince the viewer that the spineless man who purports to have nothing to do with politics/power has a great deal to do with politics/power.