Saturday, September 20, 2014

Two Women (1960 film)




Based on the novel by Albert Moravia, La ciociara (Two Women) is the story of a woman trying to protect her daughter from the horrors of war during World War II. Directed by Vittorio De Sica and screenplay by De Sica and Cesare Zavattini, the film explores war from the perspective of a woman and her young daughter as it is a story of motherhood as well as a coming of age story for her daughter. Starring Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eleonora Brown, and Carlo Ninchi. La ciociara is an astonishing yet terrifying film from Vittorio De Sica.

Set in World War II during the rule of Benito Mussolini, the film explores a woman and her 12-year old daughter trying to hide from the horrors of war by traveling from Rome to the Northern Italian mountains. It’s a film that showcases what women go through in war as they endure many of its horrors where a widow tries to shield her daughter from these moments where the two become part of a group of refugees seeking shelters in the mountains where they befriend a former professor with Communist ideals. During this time in the mountains, Cesira (Sophia Loren) deals with the struggles to protect her daughter Rosetta (Eleonora Brown) from the horrors of war as planes often fly by. Hunger also becomes a key factor into their struggle as they get help from Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who is an intellect with Communist ideals as he becomes this father figure for Rosetta.

The film’s screenplay does have this unique structure where the first act is set in Rome as well as Cesira and Rosetta walking towards the mountains when their train is forced to be stopped. The second act is set in the mountains and in nearby villages while the third is about Cesira and Rosetta trying to return to Rome when the Americans arrive to liberate Italy. It all plays to Cesira and Rosetta in their encounter with war as they would meet different soldiers in their journey as well as watch an old man gunned down by a plane. There’s also moments in the story where Cesira is intrigued by Michele despite the fact that he’s younger than her as it does lead to elements of romance. Yet, it’s a cautious one as Michele knows what is at stake where even though the Allies would win. The war isn’t over as the Germans become the new enemy and there’s an uncertainty into whether they could trust the Allies.

Vittorio De Sica’s direction is very mesmerizing for not just the way he explores the horrors of war but also in the dramatic moments in how Cesira tries to do what is right for her daughter and to protect her. The direction showcases some very chilling images that displays what kind of woman Cesira is where she has good intentions but does things that aren’t very noble. Still, she is determined to protect her daughter as De Sica would create some intoxicating close-ups to play into her struggle as well as some medium and wide shots to showcase the world they’re in as well as the horrors of war. There’s also some very dark scenes that includes an encounter with Moroccan soldiers that is one of the film’s most unforgettable and disturbing moments. Though De Sica knows what he does, he knows what not to show as it is about the dramatic impact and terror that happens. It all plays into what women go through in war and how it can affect them in the most horrific way. Overall, De Sica crafts a very harrowing yet powerful film about a woman protecting her daughter from the horrors of war.

Cinematographer Gabor Pogany does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to capture the gorgeous landscape of the Italian mountains as well as some intriguing interior lighting schemes to play into the sense of dread that occurs during the time of war. Editor Adriana Novelli does amazing work with the editing to create some unique rhythms to play into the drama as well as that sense of suspense for any scene involving planes. Production designer Gastone Medin and set decorator/costume designer Elio Costanzi do brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of the shack where Cesira and Rosetta would live in while Costanzi‘s costumes have this air of realism to play into a world that is very chaotic. Special sound effects by Philippe Arthuys does nice work with the sound work to play into that sense of terror that occurs in war. The film’s music by Armando Trovajoli is fantastic for its somber orchestral piece to play into the drama as it showcases the sense of despair that Cesira would go through.

The film’s wonderful cast includes some notable small performances from Raf Vallone as a family friend of Cesira, Franco Balducci as a German soldier hiding in a haystack, Antonella Della Porta as a troubled mother Cesira and Michele encounter, and Carlo Ninchi as Michele’s father who tries to keep things peaceful despite his own political differences with his son. Eleonora Brown is amazing as Rosetta as an innocent, religious young girl who deals with her surroundings as well as the terror of war that would have a major impact on her. Jean-Paul Belmondo is excellent as Michele as an intellect who helps Cesira in getting food and supplies while expressing his own disdain towards Mussolini and the idea of war. Finally, there’s Sophia Loren in an incredible performance as Cesira as this woman determined to protect her daughter at any cost as she would use her sex appeal to get what she wants but also is a woman that understands right from wrong as it’s really one of Loren’s finest performances.

La ciociara is a tremendously visceral yet evocative film from Vittorio De Sica that features a magnificent performance from Sophia Loren. The film isn’t just a unique yet compelling portrait about what people go through in war but also in some of its horrors and the many questions people ask about these atrocities. In the end, La ciociara is a phenomenal film from Vittorio De Sica.

Vittorio De Sica Films: (Rose scarlatte) - (Maddalena, zero in condotta) - (Teresa Venerdi) - (Un garibaldino al convento) - (The Children Are Watching Us) - (La porta del cielo) - (Shoeshine) - (Heart and Soul (1948 film)) - Bicycle Thieves - (Miracle in Milan) - Umberto D. - (It Happened in the Park) - (Terminal Station) - (The Gold of Naples) - (The Roof) - (Anna of Brooklyn) - (The Last Judgment) - (Boccaccio ‘70) - (The Condemned of Altona) - (Il Boom) - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - (Marriage Italian-Style) - (Un monde nouveau) - (After the Fox) - (Woman Times Seven) - (Le streghe) - (A Place for Lovers) - (Sunflowers (1970 film)) - (The Garden of Finzi-Continis) - (Lo chiameremo Andrea) - (A Brief Vacation) - (The Voyage)

© thevoid99 2014

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