Two probably the most famous Italian actors of all time, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni together (if I found the right information) have appeared in as many as 17 films, and one of the most famous collaborations was in the Oscar-nominated drama Ettore Scole. This subversive and minimalist drama takes place really on a “special” day, May 4, 1938, when the Führer arrived in Rome to visit his friend Duce. The enthusiasm of the governments among the people, one great leader arrives on a historic visit to another, there is almost no Roman who has not gone to greet Mussolini and Hitler. In the introduction to the film, Scola uses documentary archival footage and factually depicts this lust of the average man in two dictators.
They are all convinced that a new world order is being created and that Germany and Italy will be the leaders of a virtuous, new world. Those who are against these insane, totalitarian regimes are in a large minority and probably keep their mouths shut knowing that they are not writing well if they even think about criticism. The whole family of Antoinette (Loren) went to the rally. Her husband Emanuele is an ardent fascist and took their six spoiled children to the parade, and this typical middle-aged, crafted housewife stayed at home to devote herself to household chores. But when the parrot of this family escapes from the cage, it turns out that Antoinetta is not the only one left in the building.
The parrot will land right next to the window of the apartment of Gabriele (Mastroianni), a single man who is a journalist by profession and was fired for his anti-fascist views. Apparently he is a well-read man, an intellectual who is in fact the complete opposite of Antoinette, an interesting guy who has obviously passed the world until she, it will be, has moved away from the stove for years, and she will actually interrupt him in a suicide attempt. Gabriele is a homosexual who should soon be deported to Sardinia, and Antoinette will unknowingly flirt with a charming guy. Their relationship will remain on a platonic level until the end, and the two of them are actually helpless individuals who will recognize in each other that they are actually quite similar. Because even though she is surrounded by a large family, Antoinette is almost as lonely as Gabriele and meeting him only seems to awaken in her the realization that she is reduced to the role of mother, wife and housewife and cannot expect anything better and more.
Scola shot an extremely complex, deep, subversive drama full of symbolism through some gray filters and it seems more like a black and white film than a color film and even visually it seems sad, hopeless, helpless. It is a film that accurately depicts the state of mind of the nation at the time and the enthusiasm of the vast majority of people for totalitarian regimes, and much of it revolves in Scola’s work around life roles and predestination. Antoinetta is thus a real mother figure, almost a role model in fascist Italy, a woman who has accepted her actually exclusive duties, ie giving birth and raising children, and she is not interested in anything else.
Topics such as demographic renewal are obviously very important to all these totalitarians, either on the left or on the right side of the political spectrum, so in 1933 Mussolini introduced financial bonuses for large families. On the other hand, a tax on singles was introduced a few years earlier because, logically, those who do not have children are enemies of the regime and the people, so it is time to pay higher taxes. And Gabriele is also a homosexual, which means an additional traitor! While a housewife and a marginalized gay intellectual really can’t be different and two completely different worlds, this reduction in certain drawers by the regime seems to lead to a common point of contact they may not have known about until then. Although a lot will not change in Antoinette’s life until the end, and she will remain an obedient mother and housewife after meeting Gabriele, a woman as a student of every conservative order, it is as if some internal resistance to fascism will awaken and make it clear to her what kind of regime it is.
Although probably not one of the first class of Italian filmmakers, Ettore Scola (1931-2016) was an extremely prolific screenwriter and director who, in a career spanning more than half a century, directed forty and wrote eighty films. “A Special Day” or “Una giornata particolare” still sticks out in his oeuvre and it is a film that brought him a Golden Globe and a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Rating 8/10.
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