Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Two Women


La Ciociara; Drama/ War, Italy/ France, 1960; D: Vittorio De Sica, S: Sophia Loren, Eleonora Brown, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Carlo Ninchi, Andrea Checchi, Puppella Maggio

Rome, World War II. Cesira and her 13-year old daughter Rosetta are surprised by allied bombings in a store. Cesira's rich husband, whom she never loved, died, so she has intercourse with the neighbor Giovanni. Together with her daughter, she leaves Rome first with a train, then by foot. The two of them eventually arrive at a village on a hill and meet the young Michele who hates Fascists and secretly gives American soldiers refuge. Michele falls in love with Cesira, but she isn't sure if she wants a relationship with him. The Nazis take Michele to lead them in a mountainous terrain and he never returns. Cesira and Rosetta head back to Rome, but get raped by African allied soldiers in a church. Cesira has an argument with Rosetta who wants to go to a dance, but they make up.

Winner of a Golden Globe as best foreign language film, an Oscar and an best actress award in Cannes for the brilliant Sophia Loren, war drama "Two Women" is an uncompromising achievement that displays the horrors of war not through scenes on the battlefield, but through situations in the everyday lives of normal people who feel it's consequences. Although some critics complained that director Vittorio De Sica didn't follow the rules of Italian neorealism, that complaint is irrelevant since they forgot that not every Italian film has to have the same style and the author created a slightly rigid, but highly realistic world concentrating on the emotional relationship between mother and daughter. The film is filled with uncanny moments: for instance, Cesira starts an affair with the neighbor Giovanni who admitted her husband described him details of her body, but there is also a lot of dark poetry and beauty, mostly to be found in the magical scene where Cesira and Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo in a slightly underused role) lay down on the meadow to hide from shooting of an airplane and spot a ladybug in the grass. At best, "Two Women" are De Sica's sly turn towards Hollywood, yet are a refreshingly feminine and bitter document of life during a war, while a shocking sequence towards the finale, the one where Cesira and her daughter get raped in a church (!) by a bunch of African allied soldiers who saved them from Fascism, truly seems unbelievably bleak and courageous, symbolically showing how even in freedom nihilism can prevail.

Grade:+++

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