In this month’s post, in the wake of a global pandemic, instead of celebrating May Day with the usual carefree flowers, I’m simulataneously recommending two versions of a story that even includes the icy wonder of snow. The first is the very Russian story written in 1848 by a young Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The second is the 1957 Italian film Le Notti Bianche directed by the legendary neorealist Luchino Visconti. Both are named for the peculiarly light skies that occur from May through July in the far-northern city of St. Petersburg: White Nights.
Both deal with something those of us who’ve dealt with coronavirus-prompted quarantine can relate to: loneliness and isolation.
Dostoyevsky’s protagonist may be lonely, but is at least free to wander the streets, charming as he imagines himself communing and commiserating with even its buildings: “‘They are painting me yellow!’ The villains! The barbarians! They…spared nothing, neither columns, nor cornices…”
Visconti’s protagonist, played by the equally legendary Marcello Mastroianni, spends his nights wandering endlessly through a phantasmagorically neoromantic snarl of streets, yearning for a love he constantly touches but can never have.
The Dostoyevsky is available for free on Kindle. The Visconti should be streamable.