Seduced and Abandoned
August 18, 2006
The impetus for Pietro Germi’s 1964 film Seduced and Abandoned came from his outrage at an old Italian civil code that allowed a man to avoid prison for raping a woman if he married her. The woman is effectively punished twice: she’s been violated and then forced to marry the man who did it. As he did with his previous film, Divorce Italian Style (1962), Germi uses biting satire to criticize old customs that he felt were wrong and should be changed. The director felt that the code was, as quoted in the liner notes accompanying the DVD, “stupid and anachronistic. But what is more important is not so much the existence of the article but the fact that the majority of women would accept to get married.”
Peppino Califano (Puglisi) is engaged to Matilda Ascalone (Biggio) but he secretly lusts after her beautiful sister Agnese (Sandrelli). They end up having sex and ashamed of what she’s done, Agnese tearfully confesses to her local priest. Peppino, with his thin moustache and nicely groomed suit, is a smooth operator who has the whole family fooled. He is a cad, telling Matilda that he has to go home and study and instead spends the night listening to the radio while plotting how he can be alone with Agnese. Matilda’s father Vincenzo (Urzi) is a burly, overbearing man who is fiercely (some might say fanatically) protective of his daughters. At one point, he gives Matilda three minutes to say good-bye to her fiancé when he visits their house.
After Agnese’s mother finds a scrap of paper from a letter that she wrote alluding to her lust for Peppino, she tells her husband who freaks out and confronts his daughter. When she won’t tell him who it is, he has a mid-wife inspect all of his daughters and even has them take pregnancy tests. Agnese’s comes back positive and Vincenzo becomes obsessed with finding out who was responsible. He puts two and two together and figures out that it was Peppino. Forced with the prospect of having to marry Agnese, Peppino flees the town.
Germi populates his movie with oddball characters that are exaggerated for comedic effect. Baron Rizieri (Trieste) is about to hang himself in one scene when Vincenzo comes calling to see if he would be willing to marry Matilde. The Baron has wild hair, is missing a few teeth, and lives in a dump of a building. Apparently, he’s fallen on hard times and has sold almost everything his father left him. He also has a goofy laugh which Germi uses for maximum effect during the scene where the Baron has dinner with the Ascalone family.
The filmmaker zeroes in on and satirizes the lecherous nature of men. In one scene, three curvaceous women walk through the town and are shamelessly ogled and objectified by the men – even though they seem to enjoy the attention and encourage it. Seduced and Abandoned features absurd, at times, slapstick black comedy that Germi used so effectively in Divorce Italian Style. In one scene, Vincenzo rushes over to Peppino’s house to confront him and ends up smacking the man around (Peppino continually bumps into a piano creating oddly humourous discordant sounds) but is stopped by the parents. However, once they learn what their son did, they begin smacking him around!
Ultimately, all Vincenzo’s concerned about is his family’s good name for he is obsessed with preserving its honour and having his daughter marry Peppino is the only way he can see of accomplishing this – short of killing the man (which he unsuccessfully tries to do). Seduced and Abandoned exaggerates this belief to show how it often unfairly punished the individual while also showing the destructive nature of gossip, rampant in small towns such as the one in the movie, and how it colours people’s opinions of others. It’s a message that is just as relevant today as it was back then.
“Commedia All’Italiana: Germi Style” features interviews with screenwriters Luciano Vincenzoni and Furio Scarpelli and film scholar Marlo Sesti as they talk about Germi’s style of Italian comedy and how he juxtaposed it with tragedy. They examine the genre and define its traits: the critique of social mores and customs and making scathing observations about Italian culture. They point out that the genre came out of and was a reaction to Italian Neorealism. This is a well done primer.
There is an interview with actress Stefania Sandrelli conducted in 2002. She talks about working with Germi on Seduced and Abandoned and mentions that he was always up front about what he wanted from her in the role. She had a great time making the movie and says that she laughed all the time. Also included is a screen test she did for the role. Sandrelli talks over the footage about the kind of direction Germi gave her.
Also included is an interview actor Lando Buzzanca also from 2002. Like Sandrelli, he talks about his experiences working with Germi and points out that the director had everyone do screen tests. He then used the footage in the movie! Buzzanca talks about his character and how his personality was shaped by being surrounded by women of the family. The actor tells some good anecdotes about Germi as well.
Finally, there is an exciting theatrical trailer.