Mama Roma (1962)




Director:  Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Starring:  Anna Magnani (Mamma Roma), Ettore Garofolo (Ettore), Franco Citti (Carmine), Silvana Corsini (Bruna), Luisa Loiano (Biancofiore), Paolo Volponi (the Priest), Luciano Gonini (Zacaria), Vittorio La Paglia (Il sig. Pellissier), Piero Morgia (Piero), Lanfranco Ceccarelli (Carletto), Marcello Sorrentino (Tonino), Sandro Meschino (Pasquale), Franco Tovo (Augusto), Pasquale Ferrarese (Lino), Leandro Santarelli (Begalo).

the continuing negative effects of poverty on a mother trying to improve her life for herself and her son



Good movie.  This is done in the style of  Italian Neo-realism.  There are quite a few movies, worldwide, that deal with very realistic themes dealing with the negative, destructive effects of a family background of deep poverty.   Some reviewers talk about the film as if it is moralistic play with warnings against the negative consequences of a criminal, sinful life.    But it is not so much the fault of the individual, as the result of deep poverty that creates many people who are so damaged that they can't make it in life.

And Italy, following World War II, suffered from a great increase in poverty and crime with disastrous consequences for many individual Italians.

Mamma Roma is 43 years old.  She has just left her 30 year career as a prostitute after having saved up enough money to move to a better neighborhood, to get a better apartment and to bring her son back home.  But with such a background, it is not easy to start over in life.  She is strong enough to safe herself.  In fact, she becomes the super mother: loving, caring and sharing, Madonna-like. 

But her negative past begins to catch up with her. 

She gets her son back, but he is badly damaged psychologically.  He suffers from depression and says, at least, that he does not care about his mother.  He soon starts to succumb to the temptations of the local street life and the life of petty crime.

And to make things worse, her former husband and pimp begins to blackmail her.  This threatens all that she has worked for. If the people in her higher class (petty bourgeoisie) neighborhood, her new life could collapse because of  the vicious gossip of the moralists and because of social class restrictions.

But even more fearful to her is what would be the effect on her son and his relationship with her?  Will the innocent one be crucified on a cross of poverty and crime.   

Anna Magnani is great as Mama Roma. (Bertolucci called her Italy's greatest actress.)  If such a larger-than-life character can't make a change in her life, then who can? 


Good film.  I shouldn't complain, but I wish it was a bit more like Kurosawa's Stray Dog, which shows many scenes of the poverty and squalor of the lives of millions of Japanese following the end of World War II.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thief) (1949).


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