THE RED TENT
The Red Tent was a co-production between Italy and the USSR. The expedition has been reconstructed with highly impressive detail the production team has built full-size airship interiors and there appear to be location shoots in real Arctic conditions and icepacks (actually in the Soviet Union). Russian director Mickail K. Kalozov wants to create an epic visual feel like scenes of the airship in flight and the seat-edge crash sequence; the Russian icebreaker powering through the icecap and its crew lighting bonfires for the plane to land in the fog; or one sweeping vision with the peasant radio ham hanging on the end of a giant drawbridge. There are some fabulous aerial shots sweeping across the ice where we see polar bears and the tiny human figures below, which fully gives you an impression of just how vast an area it is that we are dealing with. Ennio Morricones score is an appropriately noble and majestic one that soars right up across the ice along with the airship.
Kalozov doesnt always carry it off the film gets a little odd when it departs from the historic record and adds elements. The casting of then 39 year-old Scots Sean Connery as a 60 year old + Norwegian Roald Amunsden is bizarre, especially in that Amunsden was only 55 in 1928, not that far removed from Connerys own age, which leaves the point of making him up some twenty years puzzling. Another of these is the need to write in a female love interest in the form of Claudia Cardinale (who was the mistress of one of the producers who insisted that she be placed into the story). Thus the opening is side-tracked by scenes of she and Edward Marzevic tumbling in the snow, while the historical record is awkwardly twisted out of shape in order to include her.
Certainly, you feel like the film skates over some of the issues that were involved in the Italia expedition. One of the things that is not mentioned is how Finn Malmgren made multiple attempts to commit suicide, believing that it was his advice regarding the weather that had led to the crashing of the expedition. The radio was set up hours after the crash whereas the film gives the impression that it was days. The biggest issue that seems swept under the carpet is the amount of sheer dithering that went on with Captain Romagna back in Spitsbergen who failed to move ships closer, set up radio monitoring and was overly reliant on the decisions being sent back and forth to the Italian admiralty who seemed indifferent about doing anything. The film also makes a big thing out of how Valeria went to Amundsen and begged him to undertake a rescue mission but he initially refused her not wanting to go back to the Pole, whereas in reality Amundsen (a former colleague of Nobile) had volunteered to lead an expedition but was turned down by the Italian Navy. The film also has Amundsen dying at the site of the envelope crash after the plane crashed there whereas it is believed that his flight crashed at sea and to this date, despite extensive search, neither the wreckage of the envelope, the plane or the bodies from either the envelope or plane crash have been found.
The story of The Italia expedition and General Nobile is one surrounded by moral question marks. He was the subject of a smear campaign by rivals who sought to blacken his name. He was officially exonerated and yet when one digs beneath this, there are still some issues that make you think. To deal with these, the film constructs a wrap-around story set in the present-day where General Nobile forms a tribunal of ghosts to judge his actions whereby the events are allowed to play out as they are recounted. Herein comes the fantasy element and the reason for The Red Tents inclusion here. At the start, this seems a heavy-handed framing device, until the end where it is used to draw a very unusual and even movingly compassionate moral from the story. It is even more unusual when one considers that General Nobile, who didnt die until 1978, was still alive at the time that The Red Tent was made.
Clip from the film here:-