I had wanted to watch this movie for some time. The trouble is, a version with English subtitles is not available. I actually wanted the full version, which runs for 125 minutes. However, while waiting, I decided to get the French version, which unfortunately is shorter, because it's the only foreign language I have learned apart from English... and I'm still working on it.
The original title is La prima notte di quiete (=The First Night of Tranquility. In the French version, however, Spider doesn't say 'Tranquility' but 'Serenity'.). Valerio Zurlini, the director, was furious when Alain Delon as the main actor and producer cut several minutes of the movie for the French version and changed the title. Delon explained that there were several things in the movie which couldn't be accepted in France.
The story is set in Rimini, a little beach town in Italy, in the early 70's. Daniele Dominici (Delon), a professor of poetry who likes gambling, arrives to replace a sick teacher in a high school for 3 - 4 months. One of his students, the beautiful 19 year-old Vanina Abati (Sonia Petrovna), interests him and although her boyfriend is the richest kid in town, Dominici's tenderness towards her makes her realize that he is different from the rest. Monica (Lea Massari), Dominici's suicidal wife, receives an anynomous letter concerning Vanina's dark secret, but the love between Vanina and Dominici has grown very strong. He only laughs. Later, when the truth is brutally spilled onto his face, he still decides to keep her.
I hope in the future I can get the full version with English subtitles because this movie has a very deep story. With my limited French, I think I have missed several details, especially with the poetry. Why Dominici wants Vanina so much? We know she chooses him because "He talks to me," said Vanina to her boyfriend Gerardo. But why she interests him? Because she chooses another subject when the new teacher asks them to write anything about their life? Does Vanina remind him of his loving cousin Livia, who drown at the age of 16? Or simply because she is the most beautiful student in class? This is a sad movie with a tragic ending. Dominici dies on his 38th birthday. On his gravestone we see he actually comes from a noble and rich family. What has become to him that he abandons all that and go around writing blank checks?
Alain Delon is very good in portraying the tormented professor. He has this melancholic look which clearly shows that he is very unhappy. This is one of his best performances. In the cast there is also young Giancarlo Giannini who plays one of Dominici's gambling friends, Spider. In the circle, he is the smartest and can be trusted. I'd never watched Zurlini's work before, but this is one of the best Italian movies I have seen.