On Seduced and Abandoned

06Dec08

In which The Gay Recluse watches movies.

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Tonight we watched Seduced and Abandoned, the 1964 film by Italian director Pietro Germi. Set in a small town in Sicily, it follows a family with a 15-year-old girl who in a moment of passion sort of consents (but sort of not) to have sex with her older sister’s fiancé. In short order she’s pregnant and her parents find out, after which the father is yelling and hitting and throwing things, while the mother weeps and plots with her husband to save their daughter’s honor. Lol, crazy Sicilans!

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But underneath the exaggerated stereotypes that provide much of the film’s comic humor — and at times it definitely could be considered madcap or rollicking — there’s an equally cutting satirical element rooted in the family’s complete disregard for the truth as they attempt to arrange a marriage between the daughter and a man she doesn’t love. Increasingly elaborate measures are taken to ensure that the rest of the gossipy town have no reason to think that she’s a “whore” or that her father is doing anything less than begrudgingly giving her hand in marriage to the most ardent of suitors.

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As the movie continues in this vein, the characters — including the town itself, filled with garish priests and nasty old men in the square — begin to acquire a grotesque quality that effectively undermines all of the conventions the family is trying to uphold: marriage, justice, honor and even the law, in which a marriage (if it can be arranged) can trump any other charge, including statutory rape or kidnapping.  As for the man who initially persuaded the girl to have sex with him, he claims he no longer wants to marry her because she’s “impure” and he wants to marry a virgin! Eventually we end up hating everyone in the movie — even as we laugh at them — except for the girl, the sullen and serenely beautiful Stefania Sandrelli, who resists her parents’ plans and dreams of escaping to the city.

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The genius of this movie lies in the fact that by the end, you’re not quite sure whether to laugh or cry.

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It makes us think of the 1960s and how society in many respects went through a revolution. You can’t watch this movie and not think that marriage is a ridiculous institution, clearly on its last legs!

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To see it now is painful to the extent that we understand how far we’ve regressed — how sickeningly conventional we’ve become, and in more subtle, odious ways than Germi could have ever depicted — but at the same time it makes us eager for a new revolution.



2 Responses to “On Seduced and Abandoned”

  1. Interesting thoughts, TGR, on a movie I didn’t much care for when I first encountered it in my 20s but now want to see again (thanks to your thoughts on it). If you’ve an interest in seeing the more modern-day Sandrelli, rent THE LAST KISS (in its original Italian version, rather than the lame American remake). Besides Sandrelli, the movie offers a look at relatively current Italian marriage/society — or at this subject/people prior to the current economic meltdown. (The setting is not Sicily, however, and this does make a difference).


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