Una giornata particolare (A Special day) (1977)
Director: Ettore Scola.
Starring: Sophia Loren (Antonietta), Marcello Mastroianni (Gabriele), John Vernon (Emanuele, the husband of Antonietta), Françoise Berd (Caretaker), Patrizia Basso (Romana), Tiziano De Persio (Arnaldo), Maurizio Di Paolantonio (Fabio), Antonio Garibaldi (Littorio), Vittorio Guerrieri (Umberto), Alessandra Mussolini (Maria Luisa), Nicole Magny (Officer's Daughter).
love story set around the first meeting of Hitler and Mussolini
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Newsreel footage: "After the grandiose demonstrations bestowed on the head of the long Reich all along the route in Germany, the train of the Fuhrer entered Italy. With the joyful greeting of the fascist organizations, Hitler's triumphant journey to Rome begins." Swastikas are draped from the buildings and people are waving handkerchiefs at Hitler on the train.
"Italy greeted the Fuhrer with disciplined composure of its political institutions and with the soul of the populace." At Ostiense Station Ostiense il Duce and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Galeazzo Ciano welcome His Majesty the King. Hitler's train arrives to the music of the German national anthem. The King and Il Duce welcome the Fuhrer. They go to the Quirinale Palace. With them are ministers Ciano, Starace and Alfieri. A little later Il Duce and the Fuhrer take a tour in a top-down convertible limousine. Behind them come the Reich ministers Von Ribbentrop, Hesse and Goebebls. The varied departments and armed forces formations are lined up along the road of the Circus Maximus. There's a big armed forces parade for Hitler. The Italian soldier in their mini tanks look silly. The Fuhrer lays a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Italian soldiers then all give the Fascist salute. After that the Italian soldiers sing a solemn song.
On the patio of an apartment building a woman takes down the swastika flag and puts out an Italian flag. In one of the apartmenst a pretty woman named Antonietta tells her son Umberto to get up out of bed. She then awakens two other sons: Fabio and Arnaldo. Now she gets up her daughter Sveglia and her husband Emanuele. She says she called for him to get up three times. And now it's time to get up Maria Luisa. Mother says that Maria Luisa would even make Hitler wait.
And, finally, she gets the smallest child up, Littorio. Maria Luisa can't get into the bathroom because Fabio is smoking a cigarette in there. Everybody is getting in each other's way because there are so many people in the apartment. Mom is very busy barking orders to the children to make sure they get out on time. The husband comes out and wipes his hands on Antonietta's dress. He loathes a lot of the things his wife wears. He also says that mother is in a very bad mood.
Outside people are gathering. The boys are all dressed in their "black shirts". It seems like everyone is leaving their apartments at the same time. From below, dad and the kids wave goodbye to Antonietta who is looking out of the apartment window.
Antonietta looks both exhausted and bored. She sits down and has the little bit of the coffee left in the cups. She reads a comic in the newspaper. As she reads, she starts to fall asleep. But her caged bird wakes her up with his calling out her name. She complains about it, but gets him some water. She left the cage door open by accident and out flies the bird. The bird lands across the square. Antonietta calls out to a man in the apartment across from her. He can't hear her. He sits at a desk with a pistol laying on the top of that desk. He becomes angry and pushes all the paper work off the desk top. He hears his doorbell ring. He immediately starts to pick up his papers off the floor. The papers on the other side of the desk, he just kicks into the bathroom and closes the door. He finally goes to the door.
Antonietta explains that her bird Rosamund got away from her. Gabriele puts some seed on the end of his broom and holds it out the window for the bird. The bird jumps on the boom and Gabriele is able to bring the broom and the bird into his apartment. Antonietta is very happy that she has her bird back. She tells Gabriele that it was indeed fortunate that he did not go to the huge parade today. She adds that she actually wanted to go to the festivities. If she has a seventh child, she will get an award from the state.
Gabriele laughs which disturbs Antonietta a bit, but he explains that life throws at us many things, even the time to laugh. Antonietta asks if he is laughing at her and he says no. He says he wants to thank her for the visit. She says she doesn't understand him. He says today he is just a bit confused. Antonietta starts to leave, but he offers her a cordial. She says she really should go, but he keeps talking to her and then they start a real conversation. She looks at a book and he says he will loan it to her. She says perhaps at another time. He says that he has been here in this apartment for two months and is surprised that they never met before.
Gabriele gets a phone call and Antonietta looks around his apartment as he talks on the phone. She notices footstep drawn on the floor. When he gets off the phone he decides to teach her how to rumba. He puts on some music. The neighbor across the way turns up her radio music which spoils the dance. Now Antonietta says she really must go because she is preparing some food on the stove. Just before she leaves, they tell each other their names.
The radio broadcasts from the parade in Hitler's honor. Everyone has to listen to it because the old woman has the volume of her radio turned way up. It's all pretty much nationalist, militaristic bull.
On the phone Gabriele says that today a neighbor saved him from doing something silly. He says that for him today is a special day. Gabriele says he's lonely and he wants to go out and talk and talk. He also says that this is better than staying in this apartment that he hates. He doesn't get much cooperation from his friend on the phone. He hangs up after saying goodbye.
Antonietta is cleaning the apartment. Her doorbell rings. She looks out and sees Gabriele. She lets him in. He gives her the book she was looking at. She says she has very little time to read and she really has to do a lot of work. Gabriele says goodbye to her, but just as he is about to leave, he asks for a cup of coffee. Antonietta seems pleased and she lets him come back in. She starts to grind the coffee beans and Gabriele takes the grinder from her and grinds the beans for her. She sees herself in the mirror and she doesn't look her best. So she excuses herself and goes into the bathroom.
To the blare of the news and music from the radio about Hitler and Mussolini, Atonietta works on improving her appearance. She also puts on her heels.
She comes out looking a little better. She says her husband works for the Ministry of Eastern Africa. He's a head clerk. The doorbell rings.
It's the old lady with the blaring radio. She suspects that Antonietta has a man in her apartment and tries to look around Antonietta as they talk. The nosy woman tells her that the man in her apartment is not trustworthy. Antonietta says when her bird escaped, the fellow was very nice to her. The woman says she doesn't want to hear about it.
Gabriele says maybe it's best that he go. But Antonietta is not going to let him go. She is going to have coffee with him regardless of any snoops around the place. He says he doesn't want to put her in an embarrassing situation. Antonietta is not going to let that stop her. She prepares the coffee. While she is in the kitchen, Gabriele looks around the apartment. He looks into an album and it is filled with pictures of fascists and lots of them are of Mussolini.
The coffee is ready. The two sit down at the table. They talk about horses and the characteristics of their mothers. The doorbell rings.
The old woman is back at Antonietta's place. She tells Antonietta that she should take her clothes down off the clothes line because now they are dry. The woman asks if the man is still with her? Antonietta says he's fixing the light in the kitchen.
When the old lady finally leaves. Antonietta finds Gabriele in the kitchen fixing the light. He pretends to get an electric shock and she nearly jumps out of her skin. She didn't like him teasing her like that. She is going to get her clothes on the line. He decides to go with her.
While she is still complaining he grabs a sheet still on the line and wraps her up in it. She shouts that he is crazy. Then she starts laughing. She is smiling when he removes the sheet from over her head. But, a little later, she says she is tired of his jokes.
Antonietta asks him if he would please leave? She is getting too attached to him. Suddenly, she just kisses him. He tells her he was taken off the radio because he was defeatist, useless and had depraved tendencies. Now Antonietta really slaps him hard across the face. She picks up her bucket of clothes and tries to leave. He asks her what was she expecting from him? She says that all men are the same. He says that he is not that virile man for which she hoped. I am a faggot.
He continues following her and tells her about an incident in his life. Like the time at billiards in Square Tuscolo when he was discovered, one man lowered his pants and pushed a stick up his rear end. And what do you know about it? You are a small, ignorant woman. A married woman with an itch. Prepared to screw on the terrazzo, but also to judge and to lynch. She reaches her door, goes inside and closes the door.
It's like the man went berserk! He shouts to let everyone know that the tenant on the sixth floor is a pouffe, a faggot. Calming down a bit, Gabriele goes down the steps and outside. The radio is still blaring the news of the big celebration for Hitler.
Gabriele makes himself something to eat. The doorbell rings. He opens the door. Antonietta has her back to the door. She asks his pardon. He lets her come in. The sounds of the chant "Duce! Duce!" are heard. Gabriele sets the table for two, puts the food on the plates and starts eating. Antonietta sits down and eats with him. He says a man like him cannot be part of the fascist party, a party of men. He said he tried to cheat and get in with a medical certificate saying the he is not a homosexual, that he was a "normal" person. He didn't get in.
Antonietta tells Gabriele about her problems with her husband. He just orders her around and they haven't laughed together for a long time. Her husband has also not been faithful to her. Gabriele tries to soothe her and she kisses him. She puts his hand on her breast. She kisses him some more and he falls back on the bed, while she still is kissing him. They hug each other. They say nice things to each other which binds them even closer.
Now everyone is starting to go back home. The old lady stands outside asking people what was the parade like?
Antonietta tels Gabriele that she should go home now. They kiss and Antonietta leaves his apartment.
The old lady asks a woman how was Hitler? "E' bellissimo!" (He is handsome.)
Antonietta's family is all together at the dinner table. Everyone is talking about the big parade and how mom missed out on seeing a great spectacle. At times Antonietta seems lost in her thoughts. She gets up from the table and starts taking the plates of those who have finished eating. She looks over across the way and sees Gabriele in his apartment. After all the kids have left the kitchen, the husband grabs his wife's ass as he says that their seventh child will be called Alolph. She says she is not having sex tonight.
When Antonietta is alone in the kitchen, she sits by the window across from Gabriele's windows and starts reading the book he gave her.
Gabriele packs up his bag and makes up his bed. Waiting for him are men who look like they are part of the Italian version of the Gestapo. Gabriele asks them when does the boat depart? In around three hours.
Antonietta looks out the window and sees Gabriele packing up a painting.
Gabriele nods to the men that he is ready. He turns out the lights and off they go.
Antonietta hears the door bang shut. She looks at the apartment across the way and there are no lights on. The apartment is completely dark. She sees walking down the stairs Gabriele and the two Gestapo-like men.
Even after Gabriele is gone, Antonietta looks out the window. She puts the book back in the cupboard, turns out the lights in her apartment and goes to bed.
Spoiler Warning. Two lost souls are drawn to each other. They are both lonely and unhappy. But when they meet, chemistry starts working its magic on the two of them and they spend almost the whole day together on this very special day for the both of them. They enjoy each other's company, but Antonietta completely misinterprets Gabriele's intentions at some point when he jokes around with her a bit too much. This sets off a tirade against Antonietta's assumption that all men are the same and Antonietta retreats to the safety of her apartment. She has learned something she did not know about the charming Gabriele and now she feels that she has humiliated herself.
What she found out is that Gabriele is homosexual and he was not trying to seduce Antonietta. After awhile and some thinking on the part of Antonietta, she goes up to Gabriele's apartment to makes amends and make up with him. There they share even more secrets with each other that further bind the two together. The two probably ended up having sex (but it's not really certain that they did). There is a lack of evidence except for their remarks to each other. Gabriele tells her that just because he is a homosexual that still doesn't mean he can't make love to a woman.
In the fight with Antonietta, Gabriele screamed in the halls that he was homosexual. He says why not tell the whole building! The fascists hated homosexuals. Hitler send them to concentration camps where many died or were killed. Perhaps someone in Gabriele's apartment building phoned the secret police, because at night on the special day, two Gestapo-like men in black shirts take Gabriele away.
It's sad. After Gabriele turned off all his lights in his apartment and the secrete police took him away, Antonietta turns out all her lights and has to go to sleep in the bed with her unfaithful and relatively uncaring husband.
It was sad indeed.
And boy, I thought the film was going be a pretty straight forward love story. It certainly was not that at all. I thought Sophia Loren was going to be gorgeous, but she was not at all. She dressed like a woman who gave up on true love a long time ago and now doesn't give a damn about her appearance. And Marcello Mastroianni was pretty plain-dressed and plain-looking too. He wore a sweater the whole day and looked rather plain and unexciting. But, don't let appearances fool you, because deep in their hearts they were both searching for love and companionship. Both actors did a great job acting their parts.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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