For Reel

Two Women (1960)
February 17, 2012, 12:21 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Vittorio De Sica

The first time that the Academy Award for Best Actress was given to a non-English performance was in 1962, when, in Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women, Sophia Loren proved that she was more than just a sex symbol with a heartbreaking performance as a mother in 1943 Italy. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Alberto Moravia, the picture is at its best when it examines the attitude that the rural Italians of Loren’s home village have about the war. While some of the civilians dismissively comment that it doesn’t matter who wins, a young intellectual played by Jean-Paul Belmondo is an impassioned Communist who would rather die than see the Germans take over. The film involves an infamous scene in which Loren and her 12-year-old daughter are savagely assaulted and raped by Moroccan soldiers in a bombed-out church. Although De Sica has noble intentions – that is, the moment further establishes the utter desecration of morality during wartime – the scene feels cheap and exploitative. It is as if the daughter’s role in the plot is solely to be defiled, to suggest the far-reaching virus of impurity that comes alongside violence. Furthermore, it is so successfully disturbing that it distracts completely the narrative, shifting the audience’s attention from the terrors of war on a politically distanced community to a discussion about the resonant harm of sexual abuse.

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