Friday, December 27, 2013
Marriage, Italian Style
Last night we saw Marriage, Italian Style. I'd never seen it before and I'd always assumed you could know what it was about just from the brief synopsis--a woman tricks her long time lover into marrying her by pretending she is dying. Then she comes back to life. I was really unprepared for how searing it was--how funny, how insightful, how cruel. There are scenes between Don Dummi', her playboy lover, and Fiumena that are so painful that its hard to believe that the farce isn't going to turn into a murder--that she doesn't kill him for the years of cruelty she has endured. Tricking him into marrying her, after 22 years of being his mistress, is only the midpoint to the movie. The heart of the film is her struggle to provide for her three illegitimate sons--only one of whom is the son of Don Dummi'. How can a woman from the lowest strata of society rise to the most honored position--not even wife, really, but mother and Madonna in one? How can a peasant and ex-whore ever manage to provide for her children in the new, post war Italy? She tries to force Dummi to take on the role of paterfamilias and husband, realizes that he's too vicious, lazy, and contemptible to play along, and then walks out on him leaving him to stew his decayed aristocratic apartment and his meaningless playboy lifestyle. Her indifference to him and his needs does what her begging never can do--he comes around and remarries her and takes on the role of father to the three boys. And the end of the movie leaves them both emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt, each having finally moved forward into their respective roles as husband, wife, parent but now not sure what the point was. I'd like to put up some dialogue from the movie but, unfortunately, I'd have to see it again and take it down verbatim as my google fu is not producing any of the really stunning lines.