Nights of Cabiria

The Performance of Giulietta Masina: A Character Analysis from “Nights of Cabiria” College

Federico Fellini may have titled the film “Nights of Cabiria”—a title that syntactically emphasizes the nights and events in relation to, and as “acted upon,” Cabiria. Yet, perhaps more interesting than the escapades is the complexity of the feisty heroine herself. Giulietta Masina plays an unrefined spitfire of a prostitute who goes by the name Cabiria, whom the camera follows through a trying segment of her life. Throughout the course of her “nights,” Cabiria is repeatedly subjected to life’s many cruelties and ironies. Masina portrays Cabiria much with the same comedic façade as the film does itself—a front that ultimately makes the more tender moments all the more effective and moving. Her delivery has a spunk that matches her physical energy—a fearlessly vulnerable performance of pure heart and soul. The audience comes to view Cabiria as a contradiction in conventional ideas of female virtue and sexuality, and increasingly grows to appreciate the sense of honesty with which she leads her life. Masina’s performance sheds light on the dimensions of Cabiria’s multifaceted personality and effectively provides insight on the formation behind these layers. Her depiction of the prostitute gradually transforms Cabiria from a joke...

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