The film presages Italian neorealism in that it was shot wholly on location. Also, most contemporaneous historical epics used a star to focus on grand historical characters. This film focuses on a character whom nobody knows or will ever know; a patriot riding to get the assistance of Giuseppe Garibaldi. This film (in its heralding of neorealism) illustrates how the average man plays a part in grand histories. The film also uses non-actors (a key element of Italian neorealism) and a rarity for its time and era.
The film includes many non-professional actors, Gianfranco Giachetti (brother of Fosco Giachetti), Maria Denis, and Mario Ferrari. It was the last film of Ugo Gracci. A list of the non-actors includes Giuseppe Gulino, Aida Bellia and many others.
The story is the harried attempt of a Sicilian partisan (as part of the Risorgimento) to reach Garibaldi's headquarters in Northern Italy, and to petition the revered revolutionary to rescue part of his besieged land. Along the way, the peasant hero encounters many colorful Italians, differing in class and age, and holding political opinions of every type.
The film ends on the battlefield, making Italian unification a success, despite brutal losses.
Scholarly and other interpretation
Gabriella Romani, in an Italica article from 2002 (part of the JSTOR arts and sciences complex), writes:
Certainly the film drew upon the Soviet films of Sergei Eisenstein and the Macchiaioli painters, but just as important may be, the "Risorgimento female iconography was produced by nineteenth-century patriotic painters and writers."