Malèna

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is set in Sicily in 1940 during World War II just as Italy enters the war. Malena’s husband, Nino Scordia, who left to join the military is presumed dead. Malena tries to cope with her loss, as the town she has moved to tries to deal with this beautiful woman who gets the attention of all the local men, including the 12-year-old Renato. However, in spite of the gossip, she continues to be faithful to her husband. Renato becomes obsessed with Malena and starts fantasizing about her.

Renato continues to watch as she suffers from grief. Malena is shunned by the townspeople who begin to believe the worst about her, simply because of her beauty.

She visits her father, an almost deaf professor of Latin, regularly and helps him with his chores. When a slanderous letter reaches his hands, their relationship suffers a catastrophic blow. In the meanwhile, the war worsens. The village is bombed and Malena’s father is killed. The wife of the local dentist takes Malena to court, accusing her to having an affair with her husband, but Malena is acquitted. Court is told that Malena is being harassed for being beautiful as other ladies feel insecure and threatened by her. The only man Malena does have an innocent romance with, an army officer, is sent away. After her acquittal, Malena’s lawyer Centorbi, using her unpaid legal fee as leverage, forces himself upon her while Renato peeps in from outside her house.

Malena’s poverty finally forces her to become a prostitute. When the German army comes to town, Malena gives herself to Germans as well. Renato sees her in the company of two German officers and faints. His mother and the older ladies think that he has been possessed and take him to church for an exorcism. His father however takes him to a brothel; Renato has sex with one of the prostitutes while fantasizing that she is Malena.

When the war ends, the women gather and publicly beat and humiliate Malena, who leaves for Messina. A few days later, Nino Scordia, Malena’s husband, returns looking for her, to the shock of all the residents. He finds his house occupied by people displaced by the war. Renato tells him through an anonymous letter about Malena’s whereabouts and the fact that she always loved only him and all the rumors about her cheating were not true. Nino goes to Messina to find her. A year later, they return. The villagers, especially the women, astonished at her courage, begin to talk to “Signora Scordia” with respect. Though still beautiful, they think of her as no threat, claiming that she has wrinkles near her eyes and has put on some weight.

In the last scene near the beach, Renato helps her pick up some oranges that had dropped from her shopping bag. Afterwards he wishes her “Buona fortuna, Signora Malena” (good luck, Mrs. Malena) and rides off on his bicycle, looking back at her for a final time, as she walks away. This is the first and only time they speak to each other in the movie. As this final scene fades out, an adult Renato’s voice-over reflects that he has not forgotten Malena, even after the passage of so many years. He says, according to the English subtitles, “Of all the girls who asked me to remember them, the only one I remembered is the one who did not ask.” (the original Italian literally translates to “I have known many women who have told me, ‘remember me,’ and I have forgotten all of them. Still today, it’s her, the only one I have never forgotten

REVIEW:

Alright, let’s get two things out of the way. First, I think Monica Bellucci is one of the most perfect women in the world. Second, Malèna is an Italian film, so be ready to do some reading.

As a little boy growing up, there were more than a few women that I had infatuations with, but none looked like Malèna. Considering some of the things this kid goes through to see her, as well as some of his fantasies, that may have been a good thing.

The film follows the little boy and his obsession with Malèna. Malèna is a, so she thinks, widow thanks to her husband apparently being killed in WWII. The ladies in this little town hate and shun her. Of course, if you look at them, and then her, it isn’t very hard to see why. This all comes to head when they publicly beat her.

Yes, I said beat her. They did this in the middle of the town, with all the men folk standing around watching. Maybe it is some Italian tradition or something, but I have to wonder why no one bothered to step in and help this poor woman. Did chivalry die in 1940s Italy?

Monica Bellucci’s curvaceous glory aside, I found myself enthralled with this story. It seems as if they really took the time to carefully craft a nice story that is quite believable, and bring about various emotions.

While this is a drama, there are moments, especially in the first half of the film that lighten the mood. I’m not a big fan of seriousness, so these moments were right up my alley.

Yes, Monica is quite luscious here, until she changes her hair. I normally love redheads, but it doesn’t work on her, but at least it was better than the blonde.

Foreign films aren’t normally my cup of tea, as I’m sure they aren’t exactly a favorite of the general public either, but this is one of those that is an exception to the rule, almost in a manner similar to Slumdog Millionaire. While this isn’t necessarily a film you can watch over and over again, it is a good watch, so give it a shot. You may just enjoy it.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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