La rabbia, which translates to “the anger,” is one the rarest of films in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s filmography and one of the most unusual projects for a director with a filmography filled with the unconventional, the controversial and the aggressively extreme.
It began as a personal rumination on the politics and history of the years since World War II from the perspective of the famous poet, filmmaker and committed Marxist, constructed entirely out of newsreel clips (Pasolini didn’t shoot a frame of original footage) with original commentary written by Pasolini as a mix of essay and free verse. After his film was complete, the producer decided that the film would have fewer censorship issues and better commercial prospects with an opposing view from the alternate (aka right wing) end of the political spectrum. Giovanninio Guareschi, an author, journalist and political cartoonist of decidedly right wing leanings, was commissioned to present the conservative voice. Pasolini was appalled by his contribution and distanced himself from the production, which was attacked by both the right and the left. After a nominal release it was withdrawn and practically disappeared, at least in its original form, until a 2007 restoration.
“Two ideologies, two opposing tendencies answer a dramatic question….,” reads the opening of the film. “Why is our life dominated by discontent, by anguish, by the fear of war, by war?” That question begins both sections of this “film in two parts,” which tackles the same general history with the same raw material (archival newsreel footage, newspaper and magazine clippings, photos and works of art) and, in many cases, the same subjects: the British monarchy, the Catholic Papacy, the power of the United States, the Russian space program (as of 1963, the Soviets were supreme in the space race) and the liberation of countries previously under the colonial rule. If they share mutual distrusts of certain super powers and of the modern world in general, it is for radically different reasons.