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Mediterraneo sheet.jpg
Original release poster
Directed byGabriele Salvatores
Produced by
Written byEnzo Monteleone
Music by
CinematographyItalo Petriccione
Edited byNino Baragli
Distributed by
Release date
  • 31 January 1991 (1991-01-31)
Running time
96 minutes
  • Italian
  • English
  • Greek
Box office$4.5 million[1]

Mediterraneo is a 1991 Italian war comedy-drama film directed by Gabriele Salvatores and written by Enzo Monteleone. The film is set during World War II and regards a group of Italian soldiers who become stranded on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and are left behind by the war. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1992.[2]


In 1941, one year after Italy joined Germany against the Allies in World War II, a small group of misfit Italian soldiers is sent to a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea for four months of lookout duty. The soldiers include a lieutenant who likes art, a macho sergeant, a ski instructor accompanied by his beloved donkey Silvana, and other quirky people. They are not very good soldiers, but a cross section of average, independent men.

The soldiers anticipate attack from outside and on the island, and take all sorts of inept precautions. They find a small town with no people. That night, they see bombing on the horizon and by radio interception, discover that the ship that was intended to pick them up has been destroyed. Mysteriously, people reappear in the village: the villagers say they hid because the Germans had taken all the men, but having seen that the Italians are absolutely harmless they have decided to return to their lives. It's not long before everyone's sunny nature appears. The Italian soldiers, unacquainted with a war they clearly do not sense as theirs, are absorbed into the life, heat and landscape of the idyllic island.

The local orthodox priest asks the lieutenant, an amateur painter, to restore the murals in his church. Two soldiers, who are brothers, befriend a lovely young woman, a shepherdess. They eventually consummate their friendship with the shepherdess who in turn - loves them both equally. Sergeant Lo Russo, the only member of the crew with a fiery spirit for war, takes up folk dancing & begins to reflect on his place in the universe. Meanwhile, the shyest soldier, Farina, falls in love with the island's prostitute, named Vasilissa[note 1].

In their old age, three of the men are reunited on the island[3]



The film's producers are Penta Film [it], A.M.A. Film, Silvio Berlusconi Communications and Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica [it].

Filming took place on the Greek island of Kastellórizo, in the Dodecanese island complex.


Mediterraneo was released in Italy on 31 January 1991 by Penta Distribuzione before premiering at the 1991 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 1991, where its North American distribution rights were purchased by Miramax Films. Internationally, the film was truncated by 10 minutes, resulting in an 86-minute cut.

The film was submitted as the Italian entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in November 1991.[4] It was released in the United States in March 1992, a week before the Academy Awards[1] and made its worldwide run over the next two years.

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $4.5 million in the United States and Canada,[1] and was the highest-grossing non-English language film at the US box office that year[5] but was later surpassed by Indochine which was released at Christmas 1992 and grossed most of its revenue in 1993.[6]

Critical response[edit]

Mediterraneo was received positively by critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 79% score, based on 14 reviews, with an average rating of 6.33/10.[7]

In 1996, Roger Ebert stated that this was the only film he ever walked out of because it was "utterly without redeeming merit".[8]


It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1992.[2]


The film has been criticised for its portrayal of the Royal Italian Army during World War II[9] because it employs a comparable story arc to the Clean Wehrmacht myth that developed in post-war Germany. This was the belief that the Heer was noble and apolitical, unlike the National Socialists and the SS.[10] The film uses the post-war Italian Republic narrative that "Italians are decent people" (Italiani, brava gente), compared to the ideologically-motivated and brutal Germans who persecuted and murdered Jews and other ethnic groups throughout occupied Europe.[9][11] Modern historians have now challenged this narrative: research has shown the "gentle Italians" belief was created to avoid "a public debate on collective responsibility, guilt and denial, repentance and pardon" for the Italian Army's actual historical conduct and behaviour during the Second World War.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vasilissa is the Greek word for queen.


  1. ^ a b c "Mediterraneo (1992)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ a b "The 64th Academy Awards (1992) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  3. ^ Mediterraneo (1991). March 22, 1992. Review/Film Festival; Roundelay Of Love On an Isle In Wartime
  4. ^ "Spain, Italy Name Oscar Submissions". Variety. 10 November 1991. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  5. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (12 January 1993). "'Mediterraneo' Top Foreign-language Film of 1992". Variety. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Foreign Language". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Mediterraneo (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  8. ^ Watson, Bret (17 May 1996). "Siskel and Ebert answer 10 Stupid Questions". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Petrusewicz, Marta (2004). "The hidden pages of contemporary Italian history: war crimes, war guilt and collective memory". Journal of Modern Italian Studies. 9 (3): 269–70. doi:10.1080/1354571042000254700.
  10. ^ Wette, Wolfram (2002). Die Wehrmacht. Feindbilder, Vernichtungskrieg, Legenden. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main. pp. 236–238. ISBN 3-7632-5267-3.
  11. ^ Rodogno, Davide (2005). "Italiani brava gente? Fascist Italy's Policy Toward the Jews in the Balkans, April 1941–July 1943". European History Quarterly. 35 (2): 213–40. doi:10.1177/0265691405051464.

External links[edit]