After waiting a few months I was finally able to watch the 1975 Italian film, Fantozzi. Fantozzi works at a company called ItalPetrolCemenThermoTextiFarmSiderChemical where he has a demeaning and alienating job. It’s a slapstick comedy so he gets beaten around a lot in a series of funny gags, but in the end the audience is invited to reflect on the context of it.
There are spoilers beyond this point but since the story doesn’t have much linear or coherent progression it doesn’t really matter.
Fantozzi is moved to an office with a man called Folagra, who is described by the film’s narrator as a ‘left wing intellectual and after three months of studying he finally understands that he is being exploited by the capitalists. So one day he walks towards his office block and throws a brick through a window. Suddenly a figure appears, the ‘Galactic Director’ of the company, he invites Fantozzi to his office and the following scene takes place, between 01:39:25 and 01:39:36
Director: What's the difference between you and me?
Fantozzi: There is.
Director: What do you mean by difference?
Fantozzi: Surely you're not telling me that we are equal? You are the masters, the slavers. We are the starving ones!
Director: Dear Fantozzi, it's just a matter of words, of understanding. You say masters, and I say employers. You say slavers, and I say wealthy. You say starving, and I say lower class. But for the rest, I think the same way as you do.
Director: I am an enlightened man, like yourself. And I am convinced that in this world there are many iniquities to cure. I think the same way as you do, and the same way Mr Folagra does.
Fantozzi: But excuse me, Sir... you're not going to tell me that you are a communist?
Director: Well, not exactly a communist. I am a moderate progressive.
Fantozzi: But what do you plan to do about all these grievances... and all these injustices?
Director: Well, this would require that for every single problem, all the men of good will, men like you and me, start to... Please, sit down.
Fantozzi: Here, may I?
Director: They would need to start to meet together without any violence and talk until we reach an agreement.
Fantozzi: But, excuse me, your Holiness, this way will take at least 1000 years.
Director: I can wait.
The office of the director is very simple, there’s a church kneeler on the right, on the table is only a pitcher and some bread. The walls are bare. This is clearly not the lair of the super-rich, there are no ostentatious displays of wealth or privilege. The film-maker is making a nod to Weber’s ‘protestant work ethic’, the Director here is a good, efficient capitalist, he even cares for the welfare of his workers. The audience is taken in until the Director reveals his evil persona by admitting to Fantozzi that his chair is made from the skin of an accountant.
The scene also acts as an example of capitalist realism, see the Director wants the same things Fantozzi does, but they are unfeasible, impractical, impossible. Fantozzi is a dreamer whose idea cannot contend with the real world, and this is the problem. Communism is politically desirable, but the world must be changed in order for it to become realistic. If anything the scene betrays the period in which the film is made, one in which the Communist Party of Italy is at the height of its influence, but it reforms its ideas in order to go into a ‘historic compromise’ with the Christian Democrats.