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Malena 101.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Produced by Harvey Weinstein
Screenplay by Giuseppe Tornatore
Story by Luciano Vincenzoni
Starring Monica Bellucci
Giuseppe Sulfaro
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Lajos Koltai
Edited by Massimo Quaglia
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date
  • 27 October 2000 (2000-10-27) (Italy)
Running time
109 minutes
(United States cut: 92 minutes)
Country Italy
Language Italian
Box office $14,493,284

Malèna is a 2000 Italian romantic drama film starring Monica Bellucci and Giuseppe Sulfaro. It was directed and written by Giuseppe Tornatore from a story by Luciano Vincenzoni.[1] It won the Grand Prix at the 2001 Cabourg Film Festival.[2]


The film begins in 1940 in a little Sicilian town on the day 12-year-old Renato experiences three major events: Italy enters World War II; he gets a new bike; and he first sees the beautiful young woman known as Malèna. Her husband is in the forces in Africa, fighting the British, and she lives alone in their house on the outskirts. Because of her looks and her solitary state, she is an object of lust for all the town's males and of hatred for its females. She keeps an eye on her infirm old father who lives alone in the town, until he gets an anonymous note slandering her, upon which he rejects her.

Renato becomes obsessed with Malèna, spying on her in her house and stalking her when she leaves it. To fuel his erotic fantasies, he steals some of her underwear from her clothes line. When his parents find it in his bedroom, they go wild and try to break his fixation.

Malèna gets the news that her husband is killed, adding grief to her isolation. Rumours grow around her, which she unwisely helps by allowing an unmarried air force officer to visit her after dark. When she is denounced and put on trial, the officer sends testimony that he was nothing more than an occasional friend. The betrayal hurts, but Malèna says nothing to condemn him. After her acquittal, her advocate calls round and rapes her.

Renato decides to be Malèna's protector, asking God and his saints to watch over her and performing little acts of vengeance against her detractors. He does not realise that his views of her are little better than those of the townspeople, and has no idea how Malèna herself feels.

Meanwhile, the war reaches Sicily and the town is bombed by the Allies, killing her father. Now penniless and universally scorned, with nobody willing to give her work, she sinks into prostitution. The townsfolk are happy to see her as a whore rather than a dangerous widow. When Nazi forces occupy the town and Renato encounters his idol with two German soldiers, he faints. His mother decides it is demonic possession, taking him to a priest for exorcism, but his more practical father takes the lad to the town brothel. There he fantasises that the prostitute initiating him is Malèna.

The Germans leave, and to ecstatic cheers American troops enter the town. The women storm the brothel and drag out Malèna, ripping off her clothes, beating her and cutting off her hair. To escape further persecution, she leaves the hostile town. A few days later, her husband Nino, who has survived as a prisoner of war but lost an arm, comes back looking for her. His house has been taken over by displaced people and nobody can tell him how to find his wife. Renato leaves him an anonymous note saying that she still loves him but has suffered misfortunes and gone to the city of Messina.

A year later, Nino and Malèna are strolling happily through the town. Struck by her courage and devotion, seeing her now as a wife who looks more matronly, people begin speaking of her with more respect. When she goes to the market, the women say good morning and call her madam. Walking home, some fruit falls from her bag and Renato rushes to pick it up. He wishes her good luck and she gives him an enigmatic half-smile, the only time either has ever spoken to or looked openly at the other.

In a final voice-over, the aged Renato reflects that he has known and loved many women and has forgotten all of them. The only one he can never forget is Malèna.


  • Monica Bellucci as Maddalena Scordia, known as Malèna
  • Giuseppe Sulfaro as Renato Amoroso
  • Luciano Federico as Renato's father
  • Matilde Piana as Renato's mother
  • Pietro Notarianni as Bonsignore, the teacher
  • Gaetano Aronica as Nino Scordia
  • Gilberto Idonea as Centorbi, the advocate
  • Angelo Pellegrino as the Fascist party boss

Critical reception[edit]

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."[3]

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 ). 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."[4]

The film has a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on reviews of 76 critics. The website's critics consensus reads, "Malena ends up objectifying the character of the movie's title. Also, the young boy's emotional investment with Malena is never convincing, as she doesn't feel like a three-dimensional person."[5]


The soundtrack was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.


Alternate film poster




  1. ^ Malèna on IMDb.
  2. ^ "PALMARÈS 2001" (PDF). 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Rooney, David. Variety, 30 October 2000. Retrieved: 1 March 2008.
  4. ^ Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, 22 December 2000. Retrieved: 1 March 2008.
  5. ^ "Malena - Rotten Tomatoes". Flixter. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 

External links[edit]