Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)




Director:     John Madden. 

Starring:     Nicolas Cage (CaptainAntonio Corelli),  Penťlope Cruz (Pelagia),  John Hurt (Dr. Iannis),  Christian Bale (Mandras),  Irene Papas (Drosoula),  Gerasimos Skiadaressis (Mr. Stamatis),  Aspasia Kralli (Mrs. Stamatis),  Mihalis Giannatos (Kokolios),  Dimitris Kaberidis (Father Aresenios),  Pietro Sarubbi (Velisarios, The Strongman),  Viki Maragaki (Eleni, Pelagia's Friend),  Joanna-Daria Adraktas (Young Lemoni),  Ira Tavlaridis (Older Lemoni),  Katerina Didaskalou (Lemoni's Mother),  Emilios Chilakis (Dimitris),  Nikos Karathanos (Spiros).

atrocities against Italian prisoners of war, such as the massacre of the 'Acqui' Division on Cephallonia


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.  One curse word (the dreaded F word). 

Cephallonia, Greece, 1940. The Doctor gets a pea out of the ear of a patient thought to be deaf. He writes a letter to Antonio asking him if he remembers their island? He says it has not changed. They still have their local festivals as always.

Flashback. The doctorís daughter Pelagia is at a festival. She is in line with others dancing a Greek traditional dance. She likes a young fellow named Mandras. The doctor has already taught Pelagia a great deal of medicine.

During the festivities, Mandras gets too close to a cannon. The cannoneer fires off the cannon spewing out lots of rocks that hit Mandras in the butt and the back. He is treated at the doctorís place. Mandras has a great number of bruises but will live.

After Mandras gets better, he and Pelagia go down to the pier. He throws her into the water and then jumps in himself. They kiss standing in the water.

On the news the talk is of the Greek battleship, the Eli, having been torpedoed by an Italian submarine even though Greece is not at war with anyone. Prime Minister Metaxas has protested strongly to Mussoliniís government in Rome. There is also continued fighting between the Greeks and Italian soldiers on the Greek-Albanian border.

Pelagia says that Mandras wants to marry her. Dad says that the man in not her equal. He would want her to be a traditional wife. Besides, there is going to be a war and marriage will just have to wait. Dad gives her a pistol to keep with her at all times for self-defense.

A Greek Army recruiter comes to the island to speak to the young men. He shouts that the Italians are coming their way, so, he says: "Join the war In Albania!"

Mandras tells Pelagia that he will marry her as soon as he comes back from the war. Meanwhile, the priest conducts an engagement ceremony and Pelagia is given an engagement ring to wear. After the ceremony they have an engagement party. Mandras asks Pealagia to dance, but when she gets up from the chair, the chair comes with her. Mandras has glued her dress to the chair. Dad thinks this just a little too childish and Pelagia is not amused either.

The ship arrives to take the young men aboard. Mandras says goodbye to Pelagia and to his mother.

Pelagia writes letters regularly to Mandras, but she receives none in return. She writes that she does not know what happened to him.

Summer in now winter. Men back from the army say the soldiers live under terrible conditions: freezing weather and no food.

The Mayorís office puts the death lists on the bulletin board. Pelagia and Mandrasís mother check regularly, but so far the name of Mandras has not shown up.

One day Pelagia comes running home yelling: "We won! We won!" There were 8,000 Greeks versus 14,000 Italians, but the Greeks forced them to withdraw. Dad says that Hitler will never let his lap dog Mussolini be humiliated. Hitler will come to Mussoliniís aid.

Pelagia feels very sad and upset. To make matters worse is the news that Hitlerís bombers attacked Greece and the Germans have now driven all the way to Athens. In addition, at the port of Piraeus a large number of Greek ships were destroyed.

April 27, General Carvacos officially handed over the keys to Lt. Col. Von Sefen. Now Hitler controls much of northern Greece, including Salonica and the southern part of the island of Crete. The rest of Greece will be under the control of Mussolini, but the Germans will have the final authority.

One day the doctor and Pelagia see Italian paratroopers dropping out of the sky. Other Italian soldiers arrive by ship. Also coming off the ships are Italian prostitutes. Marching his troops through the small village, Captain Corelli, carrying his mandolin on his back, notices the beautiful Pelagia immediately.

The troops line up in front of the Mayorís office. The Mayor gives a message to Captain Corelli who serves as the translator for the highest ranking Italian officer. The message is: "Fuck off!" The superior officer has Corelli tell the Mayor that they will storm the building if they do not get a proper surrender. The Mayor replies that they defeated the Italians, so they will only surrender to a German officer.

The Italians have to send for a German officer. His name is Captain Gunter Weber. He tells the Italians that there are only 200 Germans on the island. The Mayor wants someone higher than a captain, but the Italian commander explains that Captain Weber is the highest ranking officer on the island. They give their statement of surrender to the German Captain.

Captain Corelli receives Carlo Guercio, a new man to the outfit. He tells the Captain that he fought in Albania with the Julia Division. Corelli is impressed. He says Carlo has done more fighting that all his men put together. He says they all are primarily singers. Every man in the artillery battery is a member of the Opera Society. He asks Carlo if he can sing. Carlo canít sing. So Corelli makes Carlo his driver.

The Italian supply officer comes around to tell the good doctor that Captain Corelli will be billeted at the doctorís house. The doctor says absolutely not! The officer doesnít want to argue with the doctor, so he starts walking away. The doctor notices the way he is waling and asks the officer whatís wrong with his feet. The officer explains that he has bad corns on his feet. This gives the doctor an idea. He says he will treat the corns, but he will need a great deal of medical supplies to do so, including lots of morphine. The officer agrees to the deal. Before the officer leaves, the doctor tells him he can bring the supplies when he brings the other officer to his house.

Pelagia walks into her kitchen and she finds Mandras sitting there. She says that she wrote him a hundred letters, but she never got a single one from him. Mandras explains that he never learned how to read and write. He says they beat the Italians, but they couldnít fight the Germans.

On another day Captain Corelli arrives. Pelagia is very hostile to him. She tells the Captain that she cannot accept any food from the enemy. But her father tells the Captain that he would like certain types of food from the Italians.

Dad goes for a walk and Pelagia asks isnít the Captain going to arrest him for he will soon be breaking curfew? Corelli just laughs about that. He playfully shouts for somebody to get a gun and shoot the man.

On the beach Corelli oversees artillery practice. Back at the doctorís house he plays with the little girl living next door, Lemoni. Pelagia comes over and sends Lemoni back to her motherís house.

Mandras tells Pelagia that she could kill the Captain. She could poison him and no one would ever know. He also says that others have joined the Partisans. Theyíve gone by boat to Patra. Mandras has kept all of Pelagiaís letters. Pelagia reads them to him. Mandras says he canít stay here.

At the doctorís house, Corelli tells the doctor and his daughter that he is with the 33rd Regiment Artillery. Dad asks him to play the mandolin. He starts tapping along to an orchestral tune in his head. The doctor gets impatient and goes to bed. Pelagia is about to leave until Corelli starts really playing. After he finishes she goes to bed.

Mandras comes to tell Pelagia that he will be leaving tomorrow. She says she doesnít want him to go. Mandras meets Captain Corelli and sort of challenges him. He asks him what he thinks of Pelagia? Corelli does not answer. Mandras kisses Pelagia and then leaves.

In the morning Pelagia says goodbye to Mandras. The Italian prostitutes go to the beach with members of Corelliís artillery battery and with Corelli himself. Some of the women swim topless. After a little romp in the water with the troops, everyone sits down and eats. The men sing songs led by Corelli.

Captain Weber comes over to say hello. He says "Heil, Hitler" and Corelli answers with "Heil Puccini!" The men tease him about coming over because all the women are there. Weber gives the men some of his good German cigarettes. He says there are 1,200 Germans on the island now. The Italians tease him about not having blonde hair. Weber says his family for many generations has come from Tyrol in Austria and everyone had brown hair.

They invite Weber to sing with them even though he says he doesnít really sing. Afterwards the guys and gals romp some more in the water. Pelagia sees this going on and she doesnít like it. When the men drop off a drunken Corelli at her house she complains about his being drunk. Corelli just laughs it off. In the house she pulls her pistol on him. He tells her: "Iíve never aimed a gun at anyone." He takes the pistol from her. Pelagia says he should be ashamed of himself. What is there to laugh about? She is so mad at him that he finally realizes how great an offense his presence has been to her. He says he will leave and stay with his men down by the beach. But the Dotor tells him to stay. He made a deal with the medical supplies provider and Corelli is part of the deal. Corelli tells the doctor he will still get his supplies. Corelli leaves.

The Italians throw a dance in the public square for the community. They ask the Greeks to please join them as they extend the hand of friendship to all. Captain Corelli sees Pelagia watching the dancing. He starts to walk in his direction and she takes off. But he goes over to ask the woman she was sitting next to if she would dance with Captain Weber. She answers that she does not want to be rude but she canít dance with a German.

A little later Pelagia asks an Italian soldier if he would dance with her. She puts on quite the dancing display. Corelli was going to bed, but her dancing entrances him. When she finishes the dance she looks directly at Captain Corelli. They stare at each other for a few seconds. Then he joins in on the clapping for her dancing.

Lemoni finds an old Turkish water mine from World War I. Corelli says itís probably not dangerous because the gunpowder is probably kaput. Then somebody has the idea to put on an explosives display for the townspeople.

The men construct a little sandbag hut to hide in when the mine is blown up. They run a wire to the explosives placed around the mine, but the line is too short to reach the sandbag hotel. So the men have to take the sandbags closer to the mine and reconstruct the sandbag building.

A big crowd has arrived to watch the fireworks. Corelli warns them they must not come down to the beach itsel. He detonates the explosives and the blast is many times stronger than expected. It blows down the sandbags. Pelagia is concerned about Corelli and runs down to see if he is okay. He will definitely live. But he notices that Pelagia came down the embankment for him.

Later when the two meet again she tells him that he was just trying to show-off and thereby endangered all the townspeople and his own men. Corelli asks her if this is her way of telling him that she missed him? He switches the subject to the dance the other night. He says when she starting dancing he thought he could watch her forever. She asks him: "Do you think you can come here and tear my whole world apart?!"

The doctor goes to get more supplies from the medical officer. The officer says that 12,000 men on the Greek mainland have malaria and they are very low on medical supplies, especially quinine. He can only give the doctor a few supplies because their supplies are not getting through to them.

The doctor sees Corelli and tells him that Pealgia wants to become a doctor. Corelli doesnít bat an eye. Dad says there have been massacres in Greece over the centuries and Corelli shouldnít make any plans.

Pelagia and others listen to the music sung by Corelliís unit, but led this time by Captain Weber. The woman who said she could not dance with a German speaks briefly to Weber.

The news is that the Allies have landed in Italy. The Italians are happy because they are hoping they will be able to go home soon. Weber is a bit disgusted by their attitude. He soon gets in an argument with Corelli. The doctor tells Weber: "Sometimes itís better to lose than have so much blood on your hands."

Corelli plays his mandolin. Pelagia is there to listen. The name of the new song is "Pelagiaís Song." Corelli and Pelagia look at each other. The mother of Mandras is shocked to see the way they are looking at each other. Pelagia leaves.

Corelli drives out on a motorcycle and sees Pelagia. He tells her that he loves her. He also says he hasnít been able to play the mandolin lately. Itís useless, hopeless to do anything about these feelings he is having. They kiss. They end up having sex.

At home the doctor tells Pelagia that when he next sees Corelli to tell him he has his mandolin. He left it in the public square. He also tells his daughter that four other boys have left to be with Mandras. The doctor then asks Pelagia if she thinks she has the type of lover for Corelli that will last after the first blush of love? She says yes. He then tells her that she must act honorably with respect to Mandras and his mother. And then pray for the liberation of the island for then everything becomes possible.

Pelagia goes to see Mandrasís mother. Inside the house she sees Mandras. She gives him a big hug, but he does not respond. He asks her where is her ring? She says she has grown too thin to wear it. It might fall off. Mandras says he wants Pelagia to arrange a meeting among the three of them: he, her and Corelli.

Rome has fallen to the Allies. Pelagia tells Corelli that Mandras is back and he wants to see him. There is the shout of: "Itís over! Weíre going home!" The Italians may be going home, but what about the Germans?

Corelli attends a meeting given by his superior officer. He says the German Colonel Barge has agreed to provide the Italians safe passage home. They are to surrender their weapons. The men are worried that the Germans might use the guns against them.

Mandras meets with Captain Corelli and Pelagia. A number of other people are there also. Mandras says they need arms and they want the Italians to give them their weapons. After all, the Italians have surrendered.

One of the Partisans tells Corelli that there has been a massive buildup of Germans on the mainland. The 117th Jaeger Division is nearing the Corinth Canal. The 104th is moving south from Yugoslavia. He also mentions that all the Italians off of Lefkada Island that surrendered were sent to prison camps in the north. Their trains were diverted in Albania northward.. Mandras tells Corelli that there is one thing certain in this war: You cannot trust the Germans!

Corelli gets his orders to withdraw his battery from Antisamos Beach. He mentions to his superior officer that if the Germans were to bring in a massive number of troops, this is where they would land. But Corelli follows his orders and moves the men out away from the beach and into the hills.

As their small caravan moves into the hills, they are suddenly stopped by the Germans. They have the Italians completely surrounded. They force the Italians to surrender their arms even though there is still another day to go before they are officially to surrender arms. Captain Weber comes up to tell Corelli that they will be guaranteed safe passage home. The Italians have their doubts. One of the Italians throws a cigarette at a German guard and the Germans open up on four Italians killing four of them. Corelli and the others are horrified at this.

The Italian commander speaks with the German commander. He tells the German that he needs some assurances of proper German behavior. The German tells him what he wants to hear.

The Italians decide to open the arms depot. Corelli says the 4th Regiment will hold Antisamos. They will keep the 5th Regiment in reserve at Assos and he will take the 8th and 9th to Agrostoli. They move out. They also give a lot of weapons to the Partisans. Corelli says if they resist now, they can beat the Germans.

Pelagia tells Corelli that when the war is over he will come back to her. Carlo, Corelliís driver, tells Pelagia that he will look out for Captain Corelli to see that he survives the war.

But in the morning eight German dive bombers attack the Italians. The Partisans have planted mines on some of the roads and on the beach. The dive bombers drop bombs right on some of the Italian artillery positions. The Partisans grab Eleni, the woman who was with the German Weber, and hang her as a traitor and a whore.

German ships land troops on the beach where Corelliís men were once stationed. Some of the German tanks and other vehicles hit land mines, while some are ambushed. In the town a bomb lands not far from Corelli.

Captain Corelli and a lot of his men are captured by the Germans. They are taken to a remote location. Corelli suspects something is up because Weber looks upset and wonít answer to Corelliís calls to him.

The Italians are herded into one area and are blocked in by the Germans. Suddenly the Germans open up on the Italians with machine guns and automatic weapons fire. They are all killed or wounded. It is Captain Weberís job to kill any Italians who are not dead. He shoots one man in the head. Then he finds that Corelli is not dead. Carlo embraced Corelli to protect him. The bullets hit Carlo first and then went into Corelli. Corelli tells Weber to kill him, but Weber canít do it. He leaves Corelli alive on the field.

Mandras and other Partisans find the bodies of the dead Italians. Mandras also finds that Corelli is alive. He picks him up and takes him to the doctor. The doctor starts getting the bullets out of the Captainís chest. The Captain also has four broken ribs.

After the operation Corelli awakens. He tries to sit up but the doctor tells him to lie still. They tells Corelli that he was found under Carloís body and that Mandras was the one who found him.

Captain Corelli appears to be in shock. He is somewhat unresponsive as Pelagia talks with him. The Germans start going house to house to find hiding Italian soldiers and Partisans. As the Germans come searching in the area of the doctorís house, Corelli wants to turn himself over to them. Pelagia is shocked and asks him what does he think heís doing? He tells her he had no right to make her love him.

The Germans grab Mandrasís mother and shoot her dead. The Partisans take Corelli with them up into the mountains. They are taking him home. They put him on a boat heading over to Italy. Pelagia is there to say goodbye to him.

Pelagia goes to see Mandras. She asks why did he save Corelli? He answers: "I wanted you to love me again." Pelagia gives him back his engagement ring. She tells him: "Iím sorry. Iím sorry." Mandras leaves.

1947. Pelagia gets a package from Italy. Itís a record of "Pelagiaís Song."

Dad thinks the record has to be from Antonio Corelli. So he writes to Antonio. He says Pelagia is full of tears that she will not let fall. If there is a wound, we must heal it. Before he can finish his letter the village is struck by an earthquake. The house starts falling around him. Dad, Pelagia and Lemoni all survive the quake.

It is feast day again. Pelagia stays for awhile, but then leaves. Dad sees Antonio Corelli walking towards his house. Antonio soon finds Pelagia. They stare at each other for awhile. They come close and Corelli says that he tried to convince himself that he could life without her but he couldnít do it. They approach each other and hug. Tears run down Pelagiaís cheeks.


Good movie.  Great love story.  And it deals with a subject not well covered in the movies.  The Axis Powers invading, taking and occupying Greece.  And in this story I learned something I did not know.  It was a bit shocking, but looking at it rationally, knowing the fascist Germans, it's not really that surprising.   Nicolas Cage (CaptainAntonio Corelli),  Penťlope Cruz (Pelagia),  John Hurt (Dr. Iannis),  Christian Bale (Mandras) and  Irene Papas (Drosoula) were all great. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1940 (October)  --  Italy invaded Greece.  The Greek army pushed them back deep into Albania.  Germany then had to come to Italy's rescue. 

1941 (April) to (middle of May)  --  a German Blitzkrieg campaigns led to the occupation of Greece by Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. 

1941 (April 27)  -- fall of Athens. 

1941 (May)  --  conquest of Crete. 

The island of Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece.  The island has an area of 350 sq. miles.   It is located in an earthquake zone.  Every year there are dozens of minor tremors. .

until late 1943 --   the Italians were the dominant occupying force on the island.  There were 12,000 Italians (33rd Infantry Division Acqu) and 2,000 German troops. 

1943 (September 8)  -  Italy proclaims an armistice with it and the Allied armed forces. 

The Italians wanted to go home, but were afraid the Germans would try to stop them.  They were reluctant to turn over their weapons to the Germans. 

German reinforcements headed to the island.  The Italians prepared to fight. 

1943 (September 13)  --  invasion of Germans of Kefalonia.. 

The Italians held out for a while at the siege of Argostoli.

1943 (September 21)  --  eventually the Germans gained complete control over the island.

The Italians started with 12,000 men.  After the battle for Kefalonia, only 9,000 were left.  Out of this 9,000 the Germans executed 6,000 Italians, leaving only 3,000 out of the original 12,000.

1943 (September)  --  German massacre of Italian troops at the islands of Cephallonia and Kos.

1943 (late)  --  different Resistance groups began to fight against each other, which eventually would lead to civil war. 

1944 (October)  --  liberation of Greece.  But Greece soon fell into civil war. 

1945  --  end of World War II. 



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