Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Giuseppe Tornatore|
|Produced by||Harvey Weinstein|
|Screenplay by||Giuseppe Tornatore|
|Story by||Luciano Vincenzoni|
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Editing by||Massimo Quaglia|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Running time||109 minutes
(United States cut: 92 minutes)
The film begins in Sicily in 1940 during World War II just as Italy enters the war. A young boy, 12-year old Renato, experiences three major events in one day: First, Italy goes to war, second, he gets a new bike, and third, he first sees the beautiful lady, Malena. Malena's husband, Nino Scordia, has been taken away to fight in Africa and Malena is left alone with her father, an elderly and almost-deaf man. Malena tries to cope with her loneliness, as the town she has moved to tries to deal with this beautiful woman who gets the attention of all the local men, including Renato. However, in spite of the gossip, she continues to be faithful to her husband. Renato becomes obsessed with Malena and starts fantasizing about her. His fantasies become increasingly elaborate and he becomes obsessed with the shy young woman, peeping in her window often as she waits sadly for her beloved husband to return. Renato eventually steals Malena's underwear and begins to fantasize about her in bed, to the horror of his parents. They do everything to stop his behavior, but it is all in vain.
Malena soon receives word that her husband has been killed and her grief consumes her. Renato continues to watch Malena as she suffers from grief. Malena is shunned by the townspeople who begin to believe the worst about her, simply because of her beauty. Women spread terrible rumors and men encourage the rumors by lurking around the poor widow, who does nothing to defend herself; she just wants to be left alone.
She visits her father regularly and helps him with his chores, but when a slanderous letter reaches his hands, their relationship suffers a catastrophic blow. Things only get worse when the wife of the local dentist takes Malena to court, accusing her to having an affair with her husband, but Malena is acquitted. Court is told that Malena is being harassed for being beautiful as other ladies feel insecure and threatened by her. The only man that the lonely and sad Malena has a romance with, an army officer, is sent away after saying he and Malena were "just friends". The betrayal cuts deeply, but Malena says nothing to condemn the officer. After her acquittal, Malena's lawyer Centorbi comes to her home and asks for dance and during dance, using her unpaid legal fee as leverage, rapes her while Renato peeps in from outside her house.
Renato increasingly sees himself as Malena's protector, but he does not even realize that his views of her are little better than those of the townspeople. While he asks God to protect her and personally performs little acts of vengeance against those who slander Malena, he takes no time to realize how Malena herself feels. He even rationalizes the rape as a choice Malena made to pay her legal fee.
Meanwhile, the war reaches Sicily and the town is bombed. Malena's father dies and she is left completely alone. Desperate for food, Malena's poverty finally forces her to become a prostitute. She cuts off her long black hair and begins to dress provocatively. When the German army comes to town, Malena gives herself to Germans as well. The townspeople smugly watch as she is forced into the role of whore; they are almost more content now than when she was a virtuous young wife. Renato sees her in the company of two German officers and faints. His mother and the older ladies think that he has been possessed and take him to church for an exorcism. His father however takes him to a brothel; Renato has sex with one of the prostitutes while fantasizing that she is Malena.
When the war ends and the Americans arrive, the women gather and publicly beat and humiliate Malena viciously, forcefully shaving her hair and stripping her in the square. A depressed Malena leaves for Messina to escape further persecution. A few days later, Nino Scordia, Malena's husband, returns looking for her, to the shock of all the residents. He finds his house occupied by people displaced by the war and nobody willing to tell him what became of his wife. Renato tells him through an anonymous letter about Malena's whereabouts and the fact that she always loved only him and all the rumors about her cheating were not true. Nino goes to Messina to find her and a year later they are seen walking down the street, Nino proudly arm-in-arm with his still-beautiful wife. The villagers, especially the women, astonished at her courage, begin to talk to "Signora Scordia" with respect. Though still beautiful, they think of her as no threat, claiming that she has wrinkles near her eyes and has put on some weight. Malena, however, is as shy as ever and wary of the attention after her experiences.
In the last scene near the beach, Renato helps her pick up some oranges that had dropped from her shopping bag. Afterwards he wishes her "Buona fortuna, Signora Malena" (good luck, Mrs. Malena) and rides off on his bicycle, looking back at her for a final time, as she walks away. This is the first and only time they speak to each other in the movie. As this final scene fades out, an adult Renato's voice-over reflects that he has not forgotten Malena, even after the passage of so many years. He says, according to the English subtitles, "Time has passed and I have loved many women. And as they've held me close and asked if I will remember them, I believed in my heart that I would. But the only one I've never forgotten, is the one who never asked ... Malena"
- Monica Bellucci as Malena Scordia
- Giuseppe Sulfaro as Renato Amoroso
- Luciano Federico as Renato's Father
- Matilde Piana as Renato's Mother
- Pietro Notarianni as Professor Bonsignore
- Gaetano Aronica as Nino Scordia
- Gilberto Idonea as Avvocato Centorbi
- Angelo Pellegrino as Segretario politico
- Gabriella Di Luzio as Mantenuta del Barone
When first released Variety wrote, "Considerably scaled down in scope and size from his English-language existential epic, "The Legend of 1900," Giuseppe Tornatore's Malena is a beautifully crafted but slight period drama that chronicles a 13-year-old boy's obsession with a small-town siren in World War II Sicily. Combining a coming-of-age story with the sad odyssey of a woman punished for her beauty, the film ultimately has too little depth, subtlety, thematic consequence or contemporary relevance to make it a strong contender for arthouse crossover. But its erotic elements and nostalgic evocation of the same vanished Italy that made international hits of Cinema Paradiso and Il Postino could supply commercial leverage."
Film critic Roger Ebert compared the film to Federico Fellini's work, writing, "Fellini's films often involve adolescents inflamed by women who embody their carnal desires (e.g. Amarcord and 8½). But Fellini sees the humor that underlies sexual obsession, except (usually but not always) in the eyes of the participants. Malena is a simpler story, in which a young man grows up transfixed by a woman and essentially marries himself to the idea of her. It doesn't help that the movie's action grows steadily gloomier, leading to a public humiliation that seems wildly out of scale with what has gone before and to an ending that is intended to move us much more deeply, alas, than it can."
- Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists - Silver Ribbon, Best Score: Ennio Morricone.
- Cabourg Romantic Film Festival: Golden Swann, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2001.
- David di Donatello Awards: David, Best Cinematography, Lajos Koltai. 2001.
- Academy Awards: Oscar, Best Cinematography, Lajos Koltai; Best Original Score, Ennio Morricone, 2001.
- Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists - Silver Ribbon, Best Costume Design: Maurizio Millenotti; Best Editing: Massimo Quaglia; Best Production Design: Francesco Frigeri, 2001.
- Golden Globes: Golden Globe, Best Foreign Language Film, Italy; Best Original Score - Motion Picture, Ennio Morricone; 2001.
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award, Best Film not in the English Language, Harvey Weinstein, Carlo Bernasconi and Giuseppe Tornatore; 2001.
- Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2001.
- David di Donatello Awards: David, Best Costume Design, Maurizio Millenotti; Best Music, Ennio Morricone; Best Production Design, Francesco Frigeri; 2001.
- European Film Awards: Audience Award, Best Actress, Monica Bellucci; Best Director, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2001.
- Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards: Sierra Award, Best Foreign Film, 2001.
- Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards: PFCS Award, Best Foreign Language Film, 2001.
- Satellite Awards: Golden Satellite Award, Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language; Best Original Score, Ennio Morricone, 2001.
- Vihari Award: Best Actress for seductive role in the year 2000.
- Official website
- Malèna at the Internet Movie Database
- Malèna at Rotten Tomatoes
- Malèna film trailer on YouTube