Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Writers: Giuseppe Tornatore (writer)
Luciano Vincenzoni (story)
Release Date: 27 October 2000 (Italy) more
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance | War more
Tagline: An intimate portrait and an epic story of the courage we discover, the innocence we surrender, and the memories we
The film is set in 1940 during World War II just as Italy enters the war. Malena's husband, Nino Scordia, leaves to serve in the military. Malena feels sad and tries to cope with her loss, as the town she has just moved to tries to deal with this beautiful woman who gets the attention and lustful stares of all the local men, including the 12-year-old Renato. However, in spite of the villagers' gossip, she continues to be faithful to her husband. Renato becomes obsessed with Malena and starts fantasizing about her while masturbating.
The silent, distractingly beautiful outsider learns one day that her husband has been killed. Renato continues to watch as she suffers from loneliness and grief. Malena is shunned by the townspeople and the unattractive, jealous women of the Italian village, who begin to believe the worst about her, simply because of her beauty.
She visits her father, an almost deaf professor of Latin, regularly and helps him with his household chores. When a slanderous letter about her sexual morals reaches his hands, their relationship suffers a catastrophic blow. In the meanwhile, the war worsens. The village is bombed and Malena's father is killed.
She falls on hard times and eventually has no money. The wife of the local dentist takes her to court, but Malena is acquitted. The only man Malena does have an innocent romance with, an army officer, is sent away because of the trial.
Malena's poverty finally forces her to succumb to the greed and malice of the town and she becomes a prostitute, making the wives' fantasies about her a reality. When the German army comes to town, Malena gives herself to Germans as well. Renato sees her in the company of two German officers and faints. His mother and the older ladies of the town think that he has been possessed by the devil and take him to church to exorcise the "demons." His father however understands that he is suffering from sexual hunger and takes him to a brothel; Renato has sex with one of the prostitutes while fantasizing that she is Malena.
When the war ends, the women of the village gather and, out of jealousy and hatred, publicly beat and humiliate Malena, who shortly after leaves for Messina. A few days later, Nino Scordia returns to town, to the shock of all the residents. He finds his house occupied by people displaced by the war. Renato tells him through an anonymous letter about Malena's whereabouts. Nino goes to Messina to find her. A year later, they return. The villagers, especially the women, astonished at her courage, begin to talk to "Signora Scordia" with respect. Though still beautiful, they think of her as no threat claiming that she had wrinkles near her eyes and put on some weight. In the last scene near the beach, Renato helps her pick up some oranges that had dropped from her shopping bag. Afterwards he wishes her "Buona fortuna, Signora Malena" (good luck, Mrs. Malena) and rides off on his bicycle, looking back at her for a final time, as she walks away, with the retrospective thought that he has never forgotten her, even in his old age. He said, "Of all the girls who asked me if I remember them, the only one I remembered is the one who did not ask." The audience is left not knowing if Malena ever realizes Renato's feelings for her.
Monica Bellucci as Malena Scordia
Giuseppe Sulfaro as Renato Amoroso
Luciano Federico as Renato's Father
Matilde Piana as Renato's Mother
Pietro Notarianni as Professor Bonsignore
Gaetano Aronica as Nino Scordia
Gilberto Idonea as Avvocato Centorbi
Angelo Pellegrino as Segretario politico
Gabriella Di Luzio as Mantenuta del Barone
When first released Variety wrote, "Considerably scaled down in scope and size from his English-language existential epic, "The Legend of 1900," Giuseppe Tornatore's Malena is a beautifully crafted but slight period drama that chronicles a 13-year-old boy's obsession with a small-town siren in World War II Sicily. Combining a coming-of-age story with the sad odyssey of a woman punished for her beauty, the film ultimately has too little depth, subtlety, thematic consequence or contemporary relevance to make it a strong contender for arthouse crossover. But its erotic elements and nostalgic evocation of the same vanished Italy that made international hits of "Cinema Paradiso" and "Il Postino" could supply commercial leverage."
Film critic Roger Ebert compared the film to Fellini's work, writing, "Fellini's films often involve adolescents inflamed by women who embody their carnal desires. (See Amarcord and 8½ Please.) But Fellini sees the humor that underlies sexual obsession, except (usually but not always) in the eyes of the participants. Malena is a simpler story, in which a young man grows up transfixed by a woman and essentially marries himself to the idea of her. It doesn't help that the movie's action grows steadily gloomier, leading to a public humiliation that seems wildly out of scale with what has gone before and to an ending that is intended to move us much more deeply, alas, than it can."
Main article: Malèna (soundtrack)
The soundtrack was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
The United States version of the film was heavily cut due to the portrayal of the young boy fantasizing about performing sexual acts with Malena. One scene in the uncut version of the film has an extended scene of the boy visiting a brothel and going to bed with a prostitute whom he imagines as Malena.
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists - Silver Ribbon, Best Score: Ennio Morricone.
Cabourg Romantic Film Festival: Golden Swann, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2001.
David di Donatello Awards: David, Best Cinematography, Lajos Koltai. 2001.
Academy Awards: Oscar, Best Cinematography, Lajos Koltai; Best Original Score, Ennio Morricone, 2001.
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists - Silver Ribbon, Best Costume Design: Maurizio Millenotti; Best Editing: Massimo Quaglia; Best Production Design: Francesco Frigeri, 2001.
Golden Globes: Golden Globe, Best Foreign Language Film, Italy; Best Original Score - Motion Picture, Ennio Morricone; 2001.
British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award, Best Film not in the English Language, Harvey Weinstein, Carlo Bernasconi and Giuseppe Tornatore; 2001.
Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2001.
David di Donatello Awards: David, Best Costume Design, Maurizio Millenotti; Best Music, Ennio Morricone; Best Production Design, Francesco Frigeri; 2001.
European Film Awards: Audience Award, Best Actress, Monica Bellucci; Best Director, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2001.
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards: Sierra Award, Best Foreign Film, 2001.
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards: PFCS Award, Best Foreign Language Film, 2001.
Satellite Awards: Golden Satellite Award, Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language; Best Original Score, Ennio Morricone, 2001.