Two Women

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Two Women

Drama, War | 100 mins | Released: 1960
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eleonora Brown, Carlo Ninchi, Andrea Checchi, Pupella Maggio, Emma Baron
Our Rating: 8
Black & White

The story centers on Cesira (Loren), a widowed Roman shopkeeper, and Rosetta (Brown), her devoutly religious twelve-year-old daughter, during World War II. To escape the Allied bombing of Rome, Cesira and her daughter flee southern Lazio for her native Ciociaria, a rural, mountainous province of central Italy.

After they arrive at Ciociaria, Cesira attracts the attention of a young local intellectual with communist sympathies named Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo). Rosetta sees Michele as a father figure and develops a strong bond with him. However, Michele is eventually taken prisoner by a company of German soldiers, who hope to use him as a guide to the mountainous terrain.

Cesira decides to return to Rome once the Allied troops end German occupation. On the way home, Cesira and Rosetta are gang-raped inside a church by a group of Goumier — Moroccan soldiers of the French Army. Rosetta is traumatized, becoming detached and distant from her mother and no longer an innocent child. When the two manage to find shelter at a neighbouring village, Rosetta disappears during the night, sending Cesira into a panic. She thinks Rosetta has gone to look for Michele, but later finds out that Michele was killed by the same soldiers. Rosetta returns, having been out dancing with an older boy, who has given her silk stockings, despite her youth.

Cesira is outraged and upset, slapping Rosetta for her behavior, but Rosetta remains unresponsive, emotionally distant. When, however, Cesira informs Rosetta of Michele’s death, Rosetta begins to cry like the little girl she had been prior to the rape. With her mother comforting the child, De Sica zooms out to end the film.

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Movie Notes:

Two Women (Italian: La ciociara, roughly translated as “The Woman from Ciociaria”) is a 1960 Italian film directed by Vittorio De Sica. It tells the story of a woman trying to protect her young daughter from the horrors of war. The film stars Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eleonora Brown, Carlo Ninchi and Andrea Checchi. The film was adapted by De Sica and Cesare Zavattini from the novel of the same name written by Alberto Moravia. The story is fictional, but based on actual events during what the Italians call Marocchinate.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Sophia Loren, due largely to heavy promotion by its North American distributor, Joseph E. Levine. This was the first time an acting Oscar had been given for a non-English-speaking performance.

Loren also won the award for Best Actress at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival.

Loren won 22 international awards for Two Women.

“La Ciociara” was remade for television in 1988. It was adapted by Diana Gould, Lidia Ravera, Dino Risi and Bernardino Zapponi. It was directed by Risi and starred Loren, Robert Loggia, Leonardo Ferrantini, Dario Ghirardi and Sydney Penny.

According to George Cukor biographer Emanuel Levy, after Cukor had directed both Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani to Oscar nominations in “Wild as the Wind,” agent Irving “Swifty’ Lazar made a deal with “Wind”‘s studio, Paramount to do a version of “Two Women” the following spring, with Magnani as the mother and Sophia Loren as the daughter. Although Magnani respected both Loren and Cukor, she objected to Loren’s casting. She believed the actress was too tall and strong looking for her and feared the script might favor the younger actress. Cukor would not give into the Magnani’s demands and the production did not go forward.

It has been said that Anna Magnani was originally cast in the role of Cesira, but when she was unable commit to the film due to illness, it was Magnani herself who suggested Sophia Loren for the role, suggesting to director Vittorio De Sica that if Loren (who was 25 years old at the time) would not mind playing a mother with an adolescent daughter, then the role should go to her.

The film is adapted from an Alberto Moravia novel of 1957 “La Ciocara”, based on true events of mass rapes by the Moroccan Gourmiers in the Ciocara region after the battle of Monte Cassino in World War II. Monte Cassino was captured by the Allies on 18 May 1944, and on the following night, thousands of Goumiers and other colonial troops scoured the hills surrounding the towns and the villages of Ciociaria. Over 60,000 women, ranging in age from 11 to 86, suffered from violence, when village after village came under control of the Goumiers. Civilian men who tried to protect their wives and daughters were murdered.

Two Women was restored in July 2002.

Notable Quotes:
English Soldier: “There are lots of good things in Italy.”
Michele Di Libero: “You don’t know Italy.”
English Soldier: “Oh, we know Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo.”
Michele Di Libero: “They are dead.”

Cesira:

“Do you know what they have done those “heroes” that you command? Do you know what your great soldiers have done in a holy church under the eyes of the madonna? Do you know?”
American Soldier: “Peace, peace.”
Cesira: “Yes, peace, beautful peace! You ruined my little daughter forever! Now she’s worse than dead. No, I’m not mad, I’m not mad! Look at her! And tell me if I am mad! Rotten crazy bastards!”

Cesira: “I’d like to see you living like I did, sleeping in a shed! And we ate once a day, that’s all. So, I went with the first one that said “I will bring you to Rome.” I married Rome, not him.”

Cesira: “You’re getting a real behind on you like a woman.”

Cesira: “If you said the things to me that he does, I would slap you in the face.”

See Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Jean-LucGogard’s “Breathless” on MovieZoot here