Sold by her impoverished mother to Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), a brutish fairground wrestler, waif-like Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) lives a life of drudgery as his assistant. After taking to the road with a travelling circus, a budding relationship with Il Matto, a gentle, tightrope walking clown, offers a potential refuge from her master’s clutches.
Trapped by her own servile nature, Gelsomina waivers, and Zampano’s volcanic temper erupts with tragic consequences. ’La Strada’ is a simple but beautifully crafted story that transcends itself to encompass the big themes in life: love, hope, loneliness, regret, loss and dreams. Masina is mesmeric and the final scene, with Quinn’s Zampanò briefly gazing up at the sky, is mysterious and unbearably moving.