Italian Backdrop: Films Set in Italy
From "Roman Holiday" to "The Merchant of Venice"
Based on the story by Luciano Vincenzoni, "Malena" is an unforgettable film. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, this critically acclaimed and award-winning Italian film is set in a small coastal Sicilian town. Malena is the town's beauty and her life choices are at the center of the film, but the story of Malena is narrated by a young boy who repeatedly fantasizes about the lovely Malena. This haunting film is both poignant and comical. It delights in human nature's good and bad traits.
Destined to be a classic film, "A Room with a View" is an award-winning gem centered in and around the surrounding countryside of Florence. This romantic backdrop is the Victorian's answer to aristocratic lifeâ€”a trip to Florence; however, our heroine finds that her hotel has not provided her with a view of the city. Yet, as she changes her room, so too does her life take some surprising twists. This excellent film stars Helena Bonham-Carter, Maggie Smith, Daniel Day Lewis and Julian Sands. It is based on the classic novel of the same name by E.M. Forster.
"Heaven" is a recent film directed by Tom Tykwer (also directed the acclaimed Run Lola Run) and stars Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribesi in a film that can only be described as both riveting and haunting. Set in Turin, an English teacher named Philippa is at the heart of this plot that glistens with moral choicesâ€”choices depicted with modern twists. This is a plot about revenge and redemption, about honor and survival.
"Life is Beautiful", or "La Vita e Bella", is a most profound film and a delight that will leave viewers with both tears and laughter. Roberto Benigni won best actor for his performance as a comedic waiter who charms his way into the heart of a beautiful woman. Together, they create a beautiful life that is further blessed by the delightful exuberance of their son. This colorful love story might remain exactly that if WWII and its concentration camps did not darken the screen. A film about love and hope, it is also a testament to keeping courage and humor in the face of great hardship and tragedy.
William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" matches one of Shakespeare's most notorious characters with one of today's most beloved actors. Al Pacino's portrayal of the lending Jew Shylock is a first rate performance, but the other actors are also equal to the task Jeremy Irons plays Antonio and Joseph Fiennes plays his young friend Bassanio. This classic play set in Venice is also a delight for the screen portraying the conflict between moral law and the law of the land with renewed zest.
Also set in Venice, "Dangerous Beauty" is a passionate foray into the life of historic courtesan Veronica Franco played by the beautiful Catherine McCormick of Braveheart fame. The film depicts her life before the fearful inquisition as well as after. Rufus Sewell plays Veronica's life long love and their chemistry on screen is real enough to make you blush. With excellent cinematography, this film captures sixteenth century Venice when it was indeed, the gateway to the east and master of the Mediterranean.
Finally, a classic film starring some classic actors of the screen is called "Roman Holiday" and stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn plays a runaway princess who wants to explore Rome like a regular person on her own. Peck plays a journalist looking for a story and becomes something of a tour guide accompanying the princess on her playful trek. It's quite true they don't make movies like this anymore so for a foray into the cinematic past, this film is a real treat shows the splendors of Rome off to great effect.
By J. A. Young