The novel The Conformist (1951) by Alberto Moravia is the background for the movie with the same name, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
The Conformist (1970) is indisputably one of the movie classics and is the inspiration for numerous other important movies. There are also many words out there about how Bertolucci uses light, design, architecture etc.
However, the core of the story in The Conformist is usually hidden with silence, and there are reasons for that. Moravia and Bertolucci pinpoint that it is the Western tradition that is the terror, regardless of open dictatorship or not. And they prove this relation with perfection.
The Conformist is an investigation of the concept normal. The main character wants to be normal – and his struggle to be normal is highlighted in the movie – so he actively finds out how to join the secret police and their torture and killing in a fascist Italy.
Moravia and Bertolucci expose that fascism, and probably dictatorship in general, depends on rules that conform citizens to loyalty. The Conformist exposes that to obey the norm of conformity is to be normal.
Moravia and Bertolucci also disclose that today, in our so called democratic society, we are supposed to follow the same conformity and be normal, just as in an open dictatorship. In short Moravia and Bertolucci bring out that what is called democracy is in fact a hidden dictatorship.
Today the élite forces you to use and accept the concept normal, which you cannot even define in a concrete way. You are therefore only able to obey what is normal. Any kind of protest is useless and cannot even exist, because it is not normal.
In all, Moravia and Bertolucci disclose that the élite train you to use concepts with hidden functions.
The Conformist was released in 1970 and is a tragic symbol of that absolutely nothing has happened since then. The élite still has the power to turn you into the silent and normal majority.
Arcade Fire sings in their song Normal Person:
Is anything as strange as a normal person?
Is anyone as cruel as a normal person?
...you want to know if you're normal too
Well, are you?
I think I'm cool enough, but am I cruel enough...
Am I cruel enough... for you?
“The Conformist”: An unsettling political masterpiece returns, Bernardo Bertolucci's twisted drama of the Fascist era shaped Coppola and Scorsese, and retains a potent allure, Andrew O'Hehir, Salon, Aug 29, 2014