It is 1855, and the Austrian military has occupied Italy. Countess Livia Serpieri (Alida Valli) falls deeply in love with Franz Mahler (Farley Granger), an Austrian lieutenant. She betrays her country by stealing funds collected to aid the resistance and giving them to Franz so that he can bribe his way out of service. When she rendezvous with the lieutenant, she finds a drunken, ungrateful rogue who has used her only for her money, in what is perhaps among the most psychologically disturbing scenes ever filmed. Her revenge is swift and decisive, and though severe, quite believable. This 1954 film from Luchino Visconti (The Damned, Death in Venice) is a complex depiction of human passions and the destruction they can wreak, set against the larger destruction of war. A simple story told against the backdrop of countries at war, it belongs to the same genre as Reds and Doctor Zhivago, and is definitely worth viewing. --James McGrath
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