El Alamein (2002)



Director:  Enzo Monteleone.

Starring:  Paolo Briguglia (Serra), Pierfrancesco Favino (Sgt. Rizzo), Luciano Scarpa (Spagna), Emilio Solfrizzi (Lt. Fiore), Thomas Trabacchi (Capt. De Vita), Giuseppe Cederna (Capt. Medician), Piero Maggib (Tarozzi), Roberto Citran (the colonel), Silvio Orlando (the general).

Country:  Italian (English subtitles)



An Italian unit in at the Battle of El Alamein in World War II.


Gen. Erwin Rommel had earned the nickname "The Desert Fox" because he had dealt such heavy defeats on the British in Egypt.  (Now we know that he had a little assistance; German intelligence had brother the British code and they knew of their plans.)  But the tide turned with the Battle of El Alamein and the generalship of Gen. Montgomery. 

The Battle of El Alamein lasted from October 23 to November 4, 1942.  The movie is told from the Italian side of the battle, so there is a sense of foreboding about the future fate of the Italian soldiers.  Pvt. Serra arrives at the front.  He is full of enthusiasm and idealism, a university volunteer from Palermo studying in his third year, literature and philosophy. He has been told back in Italy that soon their troops would be arriving in Alexandria to push the British out of Egypt and he, willingly, believes it.   He is stationed in the southern sector of the Axis line of defense with the 10th Italian Army Corps, composed of three divisions:  Brescia, Folgore and Brescia.  

Almost immediately upon his arrival at his unit, the education of Pvt. Serra starts.  Everyone seems extremely covetous of his "good water" from El Daba.  The Italian troops haven't had good water for quite a while now.  A corporal guides him to Sgt. Rizo's unit, but on his way there is almost completely disintegrated by a British 88 direct hit. 

Pvt. Serra finds the men looking very forlorn, if not depressed sitting in their long trench -- shades of World War I.  One soldier remarks that they have been stationed in the southern section, "abandoned by God."  Pvt. Serra also learns that he will probably get dysentery and thereby the runs just like all the other soldiers.  And worse, there is no sign that things are going to get any better and are most likely to get worse.  Virtually nothing arrives at their front anymore. 

The private is sent out with Sgt. Rizzo to check the nearby Quattara Depression and find out what happened to the now missing Bersagalieri Unit.  While gone, their unit is bombarded with 20 casualties.  The British have had more luck up north a bit and Serra's unit must now report to Ruspoli's Group at point 105.  But when they get there, the learn that Ruspoli died that very afternoon, his truck hit by an 88. 

Now they are ordered to post 115.  The British attack very shortly after their arrival at the gap in the Italian line.  With this final blow to his idealism, Serra becomes a bit cynical about his foolish past assumptions concerning the glory of war. 

Serra's unit now begins a series of retreats and the question now is, will he and his unit survive the war ever to get back to Italy?  And even though these are fascist soldiers fighting in a terrible cause, one feels sympathy and empathy, as well as pity, for these Italian soldiers.  The hope is that at least the main characters might survive. 

This is a very good movie that my wife and I enjoyed immensely.  It is a good antidote for much of the upbeat American war movies. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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