Marriage Italian Style tells the story of Filumena (Sophia Loren), a prostitute, and her decades long relationship as the mistress of a wealthy Neopolitan business man named Domenico (Marcello Mastroianni).
The film opens with Filumena on her deathbed requesting that the wily Domenico marry her before she passes away. He is loathe to marry her as he is already engaged to be married to one of his young employees. But, Domenico feels he owes it to her, so he agrees.
We then learn in flashbacks the history of their relationship beginning with their first meeting in a whore house when Filumena is seventeen. The first flashbacks are from Domenico’s perspective and we meet a man who is entitled and feels as if he is doing a favor to Filumena with his patronage. He eventually sets her up as his mistress and then as his dying mother’s caretaker. Finally, he trusts her to manage his businesses as he travels around Europe.
Shortly after their marriage is finalized, Filumena reveals that she is not sick at all. She has tricked Domenico into marriage for the sake of her three sons whom he did not know existed. She believes Domenico owes her the security of his name after her years of service. And she wants his name solely for the benefit of her sons’ futures. From this point on the flashbacks are told from Filumena’s perspective. We learn exactly what sacrifices she has made for the sake of her children.
Domenico is angry at being tricked and believes he owes Filumena nothing, much less marriage. He vows to arrange an annulment invalidating all that she has sacrificed for her sons. Who will win this battle of wills?
I actually watched Marriage Italian Style by mistake, thinking another Italian actor, Rossano Brazzi, was the star. But I have heard of the famous onscreen pairing of Loren and Mastroianni so I chose to continue it anyway.
This film has a very high rating on IMDb.com thanks to favorable reviews. Many reviewers call this a realistic romance and absolutely love it. I can’t say that I agree. I feel that the relationship between Filumena and Domineco is more of an obsessive attraction, convenient for him and necessary for her.
Marriage Italian Style is very frank about sexuality considering it was made in the 1960’s. But perhaps Italian cinema was more advanced in this area than its’ American counterpart at that time.
I found this film somewhat difficult to watch in some ways. The setting in the aftermath of WWII in Italy contributes to an overall feeling of desperation which characterizes the interactions between Domenico and Filumena as they wrestle for control of their relationship.
I also found myself despising Domenico for his selfish behavior towards Filumena. It angered me to see the way he takes her for granted. He deliberately uses her for his own benefit with very little compensation. This feeling was magnified for me as I saw the events of their relationship from Filumena’s eyes. It allowed me to sympathize with her even when her behavior and actions were less than purely motivated.
Despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy Marriage Italian Style, I simply could not take my eyes off of Sophia Loren. I have seen her in a couple of American films, but here she is absolutely mesmerizing. She uses her eyes, body language, and even dress to display the changes in both age and circumstance that Filumena experiences. It really is a powerhouse performance.
Overall, though Marriage Italian Style is not the type of film I like to watch, it is still extremely well done. It is a good example of why Loren and Mastroianni are considered such a popular onscreen couple. It also gave me a realistic glimpse at both Italy and its cinematic offerings during the Sixties. I can certainly understand why it is so highly rated, though I disagree with some of the reasons other reviewers loved this film.
Rent/Buy from Amazon.