- Monica Bellucci as Malena Scordia
- Giuseppe Sulfaro as Renato Amoroso
A moving, at times funny and at times bittersweet drama, Malena focuses on the coming of age of a young boy during the Second World War and his desire for a mysterious and beautiful woman. With a lush soundtrack and beautifully rendered visuals, Malena is a film that touches you as well as delivering a few unexpected shocks every now and then.
The tale begins in 1940 in a quiet Sicilian village. Italy has just entered the War and young Renato is given his first bike. The main other event that changes his life on this eventful day is, along with his friends, glimpsing the sight of the beautiful Malena Scordia, whose husband is away fighting in the War. As a quiet and devastatingly gorgeous woman, Malena is the subject of malicious gossip from women and amorous advances from men throughout the town. Young Renato begins to develop a crush on the lonely woman and repeatedly dreams about her. Yet while almost every other man objectifies the woman and for a time Renato does this in his daydreams and fantasies, he soon begins to see that she is just trying to cope with loneliness and is not at all like the savage gossip that is spread about her. As the hardships of the War begin to take their toll, Malena comes under more scrutiny for becoming a prostitute because she is desperate for food and her husband has been listed as dead while serving in Africa. Only young Renato, on the cusp of his teenage years, knows that Malena is simply a shy woman cursed by being very beautiful and paying the price of envy and slander from others as the War continues to rage on.
Writer and director Giuseppe Tornatore conjures up an atmosphere of changing times, burgeoning sexual attraction and intolerance brought on by jealousy. Many of Renato’s dreams about Malena are amusingly rendered with cinematic quality yet tinged with a sense of eroticism. Unlike the other men who just think of her as a sex object, the young boy, while still entranced by her, becomes something of a protector for her, defending her name and observing her actions with an ardent devotion. Malena may be quite funny on occasion but it isn’t afraid to show a darker side, especially surrounding the reactions of other towards the eponymous beauty. At times, the line between humour and drama is a bit stretched, but overall it is a marvellously moving film of youth giving way to maturity and the facing of intolerance. There is one particular scene that showcases the intolerance that I won’s spoil but I will say is a shocking and completely unexpected moment that is hard to watch as the jealous women of the village unleash their fury upon the unsuspecting Malena. An evocative score from the master that is Ennio Moriconne provides thematic backbone to the movie, moving along with at first a jaunty, childlike rhythm before giving way to melancholy pieces to illustrate the sadness of Malena and her set of circumstances. The visuals in Malena are breathtakingly beautiful, bathing the sleepy town obsessed by the beauty of the elusive main character with golden lustre that further enhances the air of beauty and discussion about her.
I have often felt that Monica Bellucci is sometimes overlooked for her acting ability because of her striking looks. But one need look no further than Malena to see that she is a very talented actress of great subtlety and depth. With little dialogue, she gives this woman a sadness, unintentional beauty and the burden of being constantly watched by those around her. A lot of the performance is through her eyes, which stunningly exude a solitary demeanor, the desire to be left alone and the elusiveness that many debate about her. The young Giuseppe Sulfaro brings a naive yet loyal and ardent personality to the character of Renato, who while growing up is the only person aware of Malena’s struggles and the only one sympathetic to her plight. While there are other characters in the film, they mainly just blend together as either lustful men or jealous women as the focus on the story is Malena and Renato.
A moving coming of age tale as well as a parable about the perils of having such beauty, Malena is a fill that will stay with you in one way or another.