Senso is an elegant, expensively-produced, period love story, set back in the Italian 1860s, and a stylist delight. Film [from the story by Camillo Boito] was originally shot with an English soundtrack, with dialog by Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles.
Story, in which married Venetian aristocrat Countess Lidia (Alida Valli) falls for young Austrian officer Franz Mahler (Farley Granger), is intertwined with historical-political events of the period, the Austrian occupation, the anti-Austrian movement, the battle of Custoza, etc. Valli falls more and more in love with her officer while his interest is more financial than real.
She chases him, nevertheless, hides him from the Italians, helps him avoid combat, and treats him to a good life in a nearby city. When she finally catches up with him and finds he’s also living with a new mistress, she goes mad and denounces him to authorities.
Luchino Visconti’s direction is evident in every detail of the picture. His direction of Valli and Granger, his care for detail and backdrop atmosphere, for lighting and color, costumes and decor, his handling of the sweeping battle scenes help keep a shaky story together and give the film class.
Camera job by the late G.R. Aldo and Robert Krasker in Technicolor is among the best ever seen here, both in carefully lit interiors as well as on the many location settings in Venice and vicinity. Music, taken from Anton Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, is well chosen. In such a beautiful film, it seems a shame that the trimmings outshine the main dish (in this case the love story).