La Ciociara (Two Women ) (1960)
Director: Vittorio De Sica.
Starring: Sophia Loren (Cesira), Jean-Paul Belmondo (Michele Di Libero), Eleonora Brown (Rosetta), Carlo Ninchi (Filippo, il padre di Michele), Andrea Checchi (Un fascista), Pupella Maggio (Una contadina), Emma Baron (Maria), Bruna Cealti (Una sfollata), Antonella Della Porta (La madre impazzita), Mario Frera, Franco Balducci (Il tedesco nel pagliaio), Luciana Cortellesi, Curt Lowens, Tony Calio, Remo Galavotti.
an Italian woman and her daughter try to escape the daily air raids in Rome by heading into the countryside
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
An air raid in Rome scares a small grocery store owner and her 12-year-old daughter. She feels that she must get away from the bombings by getting into the countryside. Giovanni, a fellow shop keeper, likes Cesira and they have sex, but she tells him that she is no one's property and she will go on being an independent spirit.
She and her daughter Rosetta take the train, but it is delayed because the tracks ahead have been bombed by the Allied forces. She and Rosetta get off the train (loaded down with their luggage) and start to walk the rest of the way into the countryside. Two Italian militia men ask questions of her and try to flirt with Rosetta, but Cesira gets them to back off her. She decides to leave before the men come back. An Allied airplane strafes the road they are on killing a man on a bicycle who had just passed them.
She meets some fellow refugees and stays with them. The group is entranced when the Allies drop flares from the sky. An educated man who has studied literature at the university, Michele, takes an interest in Cesira and her daughter and takes walks with the two women. Rosetta becomes very attached to Michele. On one of their walks they run into two members of the Italian militia, one of which the two women had run into earlier. The two men are angry because they have just received the news that Il Duce (Benito Mussolini) has been jailed. They are also made angry because they know that Michele thinks this is good news. One of the men threatens to kill Michele, but is talked out of it.
Back with the refugees, two stranded English military men have come to the refugees for assistance. Cesira gives them some bread to eat and directions to proceed on with their journey.
Michele declares his love for Cesira who doesn't exactly know how to take the news emotionally. Cesira and Michele travel to a nearby town to get some food supplies from a relative of Michele's. They get the supplies but strafing bullets just miss them. Michele kisses Cesira and she does not resist, so he does it some more.
The refugees run into some stranded German soldiers who demand food from them. They force Michele to come with them to serve as their guide to the next valley. There is great concern among the refugees that Michele will be killed and they don't want him to go. But he has no choice.
When the refugees see that the German forces are leaving the area, they start to come down out of the mountains. They run into the American forces. Feeling secure, the group breaks up and goes in different directions. Cesira is a very strong woman. Too strong, perhaps, because she makes the foolish decision to proceed alone with her daughter up over the mountains to get back to Rome. Fear is a protective device that helps humans stay alive and Cesira needed some of it.
They come to an abandoned church where she decides to stay the night. But a small group of Moroccan troops invade the church and gang-rape both mother and daughter. Being very strong, Cesira is able to put the experience out of her mind for the time being in order to take care of her daughter who has obviously been traumatized by the experience. Cesira is very worried for her daughter's emotional state.
A trucker picks up the two women. He warns them that it is still too dangerous to go to Rome and drops them off outside the village of Forlani (spelling?). While Cesira sleeps, her daughter goes out dancing with one of the young men from the neighborhood. When Cesira wakes, she is extremely worried about where Rosetta has gone. She asks the neighbors and the mother of the young man tells her that the couple have gone out dancing. Cesira also learns from a neighbor that Michele has been killed by the Germans. She is very upset by this piece of news.
Early the next morning the couple return and Cesira is furious with her daughter. She demands to know why Rosetta didn't tell her where she was going. Because you were sleeping, is her answer. Cesira becomes so furious, that she actually gives the young girl a spanking. The girl appears very emotionally withdrawn and Cesira is very worried. She tells Rosetta about the death of Michele and the girl starts to weep openly. Finally, there is some sign that the girl is coming at least out of the worst part of the trauma she has suffered. The movie ends with the two women holding each other.
Good movie. Of course, Sophia Loren did a great acting job, winning her an Oscar. But the script made her a little too strong. Being so self-assured and confident, her boldness contributed to getting herself and her daughter raped. She should have stayed in the company of others for awhile longer until the Allies had gotten a definite firm hold over the area. The movie illustrates the divisions within the Italian people over the war. There were some definite fascists, but many of the refugees were happy to hear of the death of Mussolini, especially Michele. The movie shows the suffering of the civilians because of war. Rosetta, the daughter, will probably never be the same after the gang-rape, a crime that will keep on harming her perhaps until she dies.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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