Die rote/La rossa/The Redhead (1962)
Redhead, originally released in Germany as Die Rote, is adapted from a novel by Alfred Andersch. Ruth Lewerik is the carrot-topped protagonist, at wit’s end over her disappointing marriage and disillusioning secondary romance. She drops both husband and lover to head to Venice, hoping there to land a job and enjoy a more fulfilling life. Each person with whom Ruth comes in contact is also running away from himself or herself; so much for Venice. After being victimized by deceivers and exploited by self-absorbed martyrs, Ruth wearily returns home.”
“All Movie Guide”. Given 5 star rating.
“Filmed in black and white (or rather grey and white), “La Rossa” in some scenes appears to be the photographic negative of “Summertime”. As in “Summertime”, a no-longer-young redheaded woman is traveling to Venice by train. She does not spend the journey photographing the scenery in excited anticipation. This redhead spends the time reflecting on two recent affairs which had soured, leaving her with a weary, jaded expression.
Katherine Hepburn’s character arrives in a sunny, sultry Venice looking for “a mystical, magical miracle”. In La Rossa it is a wet and wintery Venice and Ruth Leuwert’s character is looking for a job as an interpreter – she is very low on funds as well as morale. After spending the night at a second rate hotel, “La Rossa” stops at a cafe in the Piazza San Marco for coffee. Behind her we see a very good looking forty-ish man reading his newspaper and, just as he did in “Summertime”, he looks up and is obviously attracted to her. Far from the shy spinster portrayed by Ms. Hepburn, she enters into conversation with him when he wipes the window so that she can better see the piazza. He learns that he was mistaken in thinking her a tourist and compliments her on her Italian, although he teases her a little about her pronunciation of “errore” in which she rolls her “r’s”. He inquires if she has seen the view from the top of the campanile and recommends it, then bids her arrivederci.
After a disappointing search for work she sits for a while in the lounge of a high class hotel hoping a wealthy man will pick her up. On her way out she inquires for work at the desk of a sarcastic clerk. Seeing her humiliated a man comes up to her to console her and invites her to his boat for a drink. Before she debarks he gives her money for which she makes a weak protest, but accepts. We see her next in pale sunlight looking down from the campanile which overlooks the Piazza San Marco. By great coincidence the man she met in the coffee shop, (Rossano Brazzi) is there also. The bells above them begin to ring and he gestures to her to cover her ears. They stand looking at each other intently until the bells are silent and they can speak. After a little small talk he asks if she would like to go below to his office to see “La fine di la mondo” (The End Of The World). He guides her through rooms full of dusty books and artifacts to his office which is made comfortable with a couch and an electric heater. After turning on the heater and pulling the drapes he opens a panel to reveal a circular map centuries old. His expressive hands delineate the end of the world, infinity. She seems mildly interested but turns the conversation to his home. Somewhat embarassed he explains he has a place for sleeping, but he feels she would find it disgusting. She is tired and as he escorts her out to the piazza he asks her name. “Francesca, I am Fabio”. He watches her walk away, then returns to his office which is perhaps his only real home.
That evening the man from the boat asks her to dinner and takes her to a seedy place where she is leered at by the sleazy clientele. They are joined by a most unwelcome dinner companion, a corpulent menacing character (Gert Frobe) who guzzles plate after plate of food so greedily that he has a choking episode that disgusts Francesca, who leaves. She is standing beneath a lamppost looking up at the window of Fabio’s office when he leaves the building. Crossing the dark square he does not see her until, pausing to light a cigarette, he wheels around and says,”You!”. She wonders where they can go and again asks about his place, but he reminds her that it is disgusting and asks if she would care to go for a coffee. (Obviously he is a lowly paid curator or perhaps, as in “Summertime”, he has a wife he hasn’t mentioned.
Francesca suggests they could go to his office and he agrees. Looking terribly weary she sits on the couch while he pours her a drink and one for himself from an almost empty bottle. She asks for a cigarette and as he lights it for her he is unable to refrain from sweeping her up and kissing her. She goes down in his arms, out of frame. Later they are descending steps through swirling mist, his arm about her. Before parting he holds her and asks when he can see her again. She tells him to call her.
Returning to her hotel she finds the boat owner waiting for her in the lobby and when she dismisses him he is angry. The following evening she again goes to the boat, having had a run-in with the man in a pawn shop where she pawned her ring. He again joins them and it is obvious that he is a threat to the man, because when he swallows the drink he is given he falls dead, poisoned. Francesca, startled and fearful, heads for the train station where Fabio catches up with her. We see them from a distance and though we can not hear what they say, it is obvious that Fabio is pleading with her to stay to no avail. She purchases a ticket and walks to the train, leaving Fabio as dejected as Renato at that same station in “Summertime”.
Written by Connie Liss
The Photo Gallery
Rossano Brazzi and Ruth Leuwerik in La rossa
Created by the Rossano Brazzi International Network