Senso | 1954
Sumptuous melodrama from Luchino Visconti, as he moved away from his neo-realist roots, with Alida Valli as Livia Serpieri, the Venetian contessa falling for Lieutenant Franz Mahler (Farley Granger), an officer in the hated invading Austrian army.
The film is made against the backdrop of beautiful Venetian locations. The opening scene, with loyal Venetians disrupting an opera performance, is Teatro La Fenice, Campo San Fantin 1965, the city ’s ill-fated opera house. Burned down in 1836, and rebuilt – hence the name ‘The Phoenix’ – it was gutted by fire once again in January 1996, not reopening until December 2003.
Originally built in 1792, the lush red and gilt interior saw the premières of many famous works, including Rigoletto and La Traviata. It was the rallying point for Venetian patriots after the Austrian invasion of 1866. It stands on Campo San Fantin, west of the Piazza San Marco.
Mahler’s barracks are on the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, a tiny island in the Cannareggio district linked by three bridges, which was the original Jewish ghetto. In fact, the word ‘ghetto’ was simply a Venetian term for the iron foundry which once stood on this site.
The Jews lived under a curfew – at night, the gates to the island would be padlocked. The uncharacteristic high-rise apartments are a result of this overcrowding. The well where Mahler and the Contessa meet up is one of three in the centre of the campo.
As dawn rises, the pair walk along the nearby Fondamenta di Cannareggio on the Canale di Cannareggio.
The besotted Contessa searches for Mahler at the Porta Magna (Main Gate) of the Arsenale di Venezia, on Campo dell’Arsenale on Fondamenta Arsenale. A huge complex of shipyards and armories, the Arsenale was the largest industrial complex in Europe until the Industrial Revolution. It utilised revolutionary mass production techniques to build the fleets of ships that ensured Venice’s wealth and power.
Now owned by the state, the Arsenale is located in the Castello district, east of Piazza San Marco.