The Best of Youth (2003)

Brief Intro

“The Best of Youth” (2003), directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, is a sweeping Italian drama that chronicles the lives of two brothers, Nicola and Matteo Carati, over several decades. Set against the backdrop of Italy’s social and political upheavals, the film delves deep into themes of family, love, loss, and redemption. With a runtime of six hours, this epic narrative captures the essence of a generation’s journey through life.

Literary Devices Used in The Best of Youth

1. Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
Nicola studying the whale’s heartThe whale’s heart represents Nicola’s immense capacity for empathy and his desire to heal others.
Matteo’s photography hobbyPhotography symbolizes Matteo’s quest for truth and his attempt to capture the fleeting moments of clarity in his tumultuous life.

2. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
The collapsing building in FlorenceSymbolizes the crumbling of old structures and beliefs in Italian society during the 1960s.
Matteo’s military uniformRepresents his internal struggle with authority and his need for discipline.

3. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
Matteo’s reaction to Giorgia’s mental stateHints at his future struggles with mental health and his eventual tragic end.
The family’s dinner conversation about the futureSubtly indicates the diverging paths the brothers will take.

4. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
Nicola becoming a psychiatristIronic given the mental health struggles within his own family.
Matteo’s death in a seemingly peaceful settingContrasts the turmoil of his life with the calmness of his final moments.

5. Flashback

Movie SceneDevice Example
Nicola reminiscing about his youthProvides context to his motivations and actions in the present.
Scenes of the brothers as childrenHighlights the innocence and simplicity of their early relationship.

6. Motif

Movie SceneDevice Example
Use of water (rain, rivers, seas)Represents cleansing, change, and the passage of time.
Music (piano playing, concerts)Symbolizes harmony, connection, and the emotional landscape of the characters.

7. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
Nicola’s gentle demeanor vs. Matteo’s intensityHighlights their contrasting approaches to life and its challenges.
Scenes of political unrest vs. intimate family momentsEmphasizes the impact of broader societal issues on personal lives.

8. Allegory

Movie SceneDevice Example
The journey to NorwayRepresents the brothers’ quest for meaning and understanding in life.
Giorgia’s liberationSymbolizes the freeing of the mind from societal constraints.

9. Hyperbole

Movie SceneDevice Example
Nicola’s passionate speeches about justiceExaggerates his idealism and commitment to societal change.
Matteo’s extreme reactions to personal failuresEmphasizes his internal turmoil and perfectionism.

10. Allusion

Movie SceneDevice Example
References to Italian political eventsGrounds the story in a realistic historical context, enhancing its authenticity.
Literary quotes used by charactersAdds depth to their personalities and reflects their intellectual engagements.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Nicola Carati

SymbolismNicola’s profession as a psychiatrist symbolizes his nurturing and empathetic nature.
MetaphorHis journey to Norway represents his inner quest for peace and understanding.

Matteo Carati

IronyMatteo’s death in a serene setting is ironic given his tumultuous life.
ForeshadowingEarly signs of his mental health struggles foreshadow his tragic end.

Character Dynamics

The relationship between Nicola and Matteo drives the narrative, highlighting themes of familial bonds, loyalty, and the divergent paths taken by individuals. Their interactions reveal their deep love for each other, despite their ideological differences and personal struggles. This dynamic is a microcosm of the broader societal changes happening in Italy, emphasizing the impact of external events on personal relationships.

Thematic Analysis

Love and Family

MotifThe recurring theme of music underscores the bond between family members.
SymbolismThe family’s home represents a safe haven amidst the chaos of the outside world.

Political and Social Change

AllegoryThe journey to Norway symbolizes the search for new beginnings amidst political turmoil.
JuxtapositionThe contrast between political unrest and intimate family moments highlights the personal impact of societal changes.

Mental Health

ForeshadowingEarly scenes hint at Matteo’s mental health struggles, which become more pronounced later in the film.
MetaphorGiorgia’s mental state serves as a metaphor for the broader societal neglect of mental health issues.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismUse of lightingDark, shadowy scenes symbolize the internal struggles of characters.
MetaphorMusic scoreThe emotional score enhances the metaphorical journey of the characters.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene: The Brothers’ Farewell at the Train Station

Link to YouTube Scene

Breakdown: This scene uses visual juxtaposition and foreshadowing to underscore the emotional distance growing between Nicola and Matteo. The train symbolizes their diverging paths, and the somber music hints at the impending tragedy.

Scene: Giorgia’s Liberation

Link to YouTube Scene

Breakdown: The liberation of Giorgia is depicted with vibrant lighting and an uplifting score, symbolizing freedom and hope. The scene uses allegory to represent broader societal changes and personal emancipation.


To wrap up our analysis, let’s test your understanding of the literary devices used in “The Best of Youth” with a quick quiz!


1. What does the whale’s heart symbolize in the movie?

  • A) Nicola’s empathy
  • B) Matteo’s anger
  • C) Giorgia’s freedom
  • D) The family’s unity

2. Which literary device is used to hint at Matteo’s future struggles?

3. What does the collapsing building in Florence symbolize?

  • A) Nicola’s ambition
  • B) Matteo’s instability
  • C) Societal change
  • D) Family disintegration

4. Which device is highlighted by the use of music throughout the film?