The common man-gets-tired-of-woman-eventually plot, the same one that we have experienced from both male and female side and in both real life and cinema, seems to have started its long on-screen career with Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio All’Italiana). However Vittorio De Sica’s film takes this common and real-life tale and twists it, gives it a different direction and a very unexpected ending. Instead of a woman who falls into depression and fills herself with guilt and insecurities, De Sica’s protagonist is surprisingly Sofia Loren’s Filomena, a hilarious, resourceful, loud, passionate, clever, witty, sexy and striking woman who won’t just accept Domenico’s (Marcello Mastroianni) game and who has the time, guts and energy to make his life a living hell. Adapted from Eduardo De Filippo’s play Filumena Marturano, it really comes as no surprise that the original source has this female protagonist’s name as its title. Both the play and the film’s script are realistic portraits of an unbelievable woman and Sofia Loren is so perfect in portraying her, that one wonders whether any other actress could have ever stood as worthily in her place.
The film’s adapted screenplay sign Leonardo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Renato Castellani and Tonino Guerra. They admittedly do a great job with it, however it needs to be stressed that the original play’s script is very generous with funny situations, strong characters and clever lines, so a fair amount of credit needs to be given to Eduardo De Filippo. If we put the script aside, then there’s only two names to be mentioned: Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Not only are they both brilliant individually, but when put together, the comedy reaches a new high. Especially when they get angry – which happens a lot throughout the film – their comical timing as an on-screen couple is more realistic, although exaggerated, than anything we’ve seen before. Their actions are extreme, their tricks never-ending and their behaviours larger-than-life. However they still tell a real story, one that we all know, and they portray two characters that we have all been at some point in our lives and that we can sympathise with. He’s furious, she’s sarcastic, he’s losing it, she conducts his nervous breakdown, he leaves, she breaks down, she drags him back, he gives up and decides to stay where he was all along.
The way this story is handled by De Sica is very appealing as well. The main reason for this is that he does not go too far with it. Rather, he keeps the original theatre-play feel and atmosphere alive and merely transfers the plot onto the screen in a simple, raw, comic and honest battle-of-the-sexes representation that is very familiar. The director allows his two lead actors to improvise as much as they want, using very limited sets and clean-cut camera frames. He gives them all the power and it’s clear that he trusts they’ll do amazing work, which they do. Vittorio De Sica takes a complex story and tells it in an effortless but highly theatrical way, delivering an engaging and good-looking film without focusing on style in the slightest.
Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio All’Italiana) is the typical romantic comedy, only painfully realistically turned upside down and inside out. Vittorio De Sica starts the story from the woman’s exhaustion, the man’s infidelities, the painful and long-time-coming breakup, only to go back and show that the relationship had indeed started with nothing to offer, highly dysfunctional from the get-go and really, a lost cause. But after he has taken all the genre’s conventions, had his fun with them and made them look stupid and unfeasible, he then accepts to offer his audience the romantic beginning and happy end they were hoping for. It’s just that the viewers have to make their way through a difficult-to-accept unromantic reality, emotional detachment, intense fighting and madness, before they can enjoy a good old-school love story ending. This could have been difficult to experience if the film had been a drama and if the female protagonist were to accept her fate as the middle-aged woman who lost her charms and man to a younger one. But with Sofia Loren’s comical timing, unbelievable beauty, passion and overall star quality, Matrimonio All’Italiana is just pure pleasure.
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Marriage Italian Style at IMDb
Marriage Italian Style at Wikipedia
Marriage Italian Style at Rotten Tomatoes
Marriage Italian Style (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb