Il Paradiso delle Signore is an Italian television drama series loosely based on Emile Zola’s novel Au Bonheur Des Dames.
After breaking her engagement with the mayor’s son, Teresa escapes her small village and heads to Milan to visit her uncle. On her very first day in the city, she happens to run into Pietro Mori. A man with a very mysterious past, he also happens to be the owner of the ladies department store, Il Paradiso delle Signore. Teresa also meets Mori’s right hand man, long time friend and the store’s genius ad-man, Vittorio Conti.
Both men are instantly smitten with her and a love triangle forms when Teresa begins work as a sales girl in the store. But Mori is hiding a dark secret which is threatening his business and Vittorio is quite the ladies man.
Set in the 1950’s, the series focuses on these three characters. It portrays the daily management and politics of running a department store. It also highlights the back stories of many small supporting characters who are employees of the store.
For fans of British TV dramas, this story may sound familiar. That’s because Zola’s novel also inspired the much loved, but short lived BBC’s The Paradise. The Italian version shares an underlying plot and similar characters with that adaptation. However, there are enough differences as to make both series unique.
The biggest difference from the origin story and The Paradise is the creation of a love triangle including Mori, Teresa and Vittorio. Now, I’m not one of those who hates the love triangle trope. If it is well done, I actually enjoy it. The problem with Il Paradiso’s love triangle is that I actually wanted Teresa to choose the wrong man.
It’s not that I don’t like Teresa and Mori together. It’s just that the chemistry between Teresa and Vittorio is exceptional. Not to mention, he’s just a better match for her. Although Mori is drawn to and eventually comes to love Teresa, Vittorio is much more open in expressing his interest in Teresa. His version of love is much more generous, thoughtful and sweet, than Mori’s secret passion. There is also another love triangle in this story between Mori, Teresa and the woman Mori uses to achieve his career goals. So, technically this is a love quadrangle.
Il Paradiso delle Signore lacks some of the Victorian charm of The Paradise. Still, I absolutely fell in love with the very fifties European atmosphere. From the cobblestone streets and classic architecture of Milan to the colorful womens fashions to the cute and zippy little cars, I was utterly enchanted with what I saw on my TV screen. And I have rarely seen a film or a television show with a more perfectly matched musical score. In fact, the music may have been my favorite thing about this show which already has so much to recommend it.
I also really enjoyed getting to know the various characters and employees of Il Paradiso delle Signore. Though it has a very large cast, none of the characters are lacking in development. In a short time, the viewer is able to feel a personal connection to and knowledge of these fictional people.
For fans of Zola’s novel and The Paradise, this series offers a new interpretation of a familiar story, but one which must be judged on its’ own merits. For anyone else, Il Paradiso delle Signore is a stylish enjoyable trip to the 1950’s Milan which will leave you dreaming of a fantasy vacation.
At this time this series is only available for viewing for subscribers of Acorn TV. But I believe it is worth the small monthly subscription fee just to watch this delightful but complicated show.