At the beginning reluctant, Agnese gives in to the passion and the couple retreat to the garden after accidently breaking a glass. In the later version, as recounted by Peppino, Agnese is depicted as an oversexualized seducer, smoking a cigarette and making clear advances towards uncomfortably behaving Peppino. A reversal of roles of sort follows, where she is the active part whereas the man is the passive and scared one.
This imagined seductress, confident and sensuous, can be read more in terms of unfulfilled desires and dreams of Sicilian men rather than reality. Additionally, Germi subtly but firmly points towards the role of Catholic Church too. It is also conveyed in some shots where religious artifacts play prominent or even dominant role see Image 2. Here however, it does not take place inside the house but outside, Assunta is abducted by mistake it was meant to be her plumper cousin but she happily gives in to her kidnapper as she is secretly in love with him.
The scene depicting their encounter follows a traditional pattern of a comedy — a mistake has been made but Assunta cannot immediately show her content, she firmly holds against Vincenzo, who on the other hand, steps into the role of macho. He assures her he prefers her cousin Concetta whereas she keeps on insisting she doesn't want him but since he has dishonored her by abducting her in front of the whole town he must now marry her.
The beginning of the scene is shot in medium and long distance shots, gradually introducing more close-ups as the couple gets more intimate. Although her desire was already made obvious she must pretend in order to follow the social norms of a woman whose duty is to resist the lust of a man. The whole scene takes place outside the town, in an old abandoned farm where Vincenzo made his hiding place.
He leaves Assunta while she is still asleep, and when she wakes up, she discovers to her horror that she has been abandoned. She returns to the village dishonored and faces the town crowd in disheveled clothes and messy hair. The black clothing of the crowd stands out against the white walls.
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The scene resembles a theatre scene with silent townsfolk as the audience and the family as actors. But here it is not an ordinary theatre but the theatre of gender roles. In an almost farcical way, he blames the kidnapping on Assunta because she dared to go outside the house to buy aspirin with her cousin and mother. The female protagonist is forced to assume symbolically a male role and pursue her infidel lover on her own as she does not have any living male relatives. The narrative ventures outside of Italy and follows Assunta to Britain, a country well under the social revolution of the s, where she transgresses the female role as defined by Sicilian norms.
Already the title, The Girl with the Pistol, suggests something unusual - a woman possessing a gun. This phallic symbol of power, oppression and violence is eventually dismissed by Assunta who learns that justice can be achieved in different, more peaceful ways. She also symbolically asserts control over her body and her fate as she slowly changes her clothes, wigs and her overall style throughout the movie. She assumes the female role but not that of traditional Sicily but modern Britain.
In the final scene Monicelli recreates the first scene but with reversed gender roles. Assunta takes her vengeance on Vincenzo by first seducing him and then leaving him alone as he did previously to her. He is not only put to shame because his lover left him but also because she put him into a female role — something shameful for a man coming from a traditional society.
But also for Vincenzo, the UK becomes a sort of sexual paradise where he is free to engage with as many women as he wishes without having to marry them or face a vengeance from their families. Extramarital erotic activities are officially banned by sexual mores prevailing in Sicily, but unofficially, men are expected to engage in them whereas women, if they want to remain honorable, must refuse. Only marriage sanctions sex for women. Women are thus denied their sexual subjectivity and are reduced to being mothers depended on their husbands. Female desire is not to be fulfilled or even expressed.
This attitude is reflected in the way women are handled by men, with much violence and little regard to their bodily freedom. Women are scarcely seen in public places; they are usually confined to domestic spaces. Agnese and her sisters are passive throughout almost entire movie whereas their father actively seeks out solution to his problems. Assunta in La ragazza only takes action because she is forced to do so by the circumstances.
Already the opening scene of La ragazza establishes harsh divisions between the male and female spheres of life. While a modern 60s diegetic tune is played by a group of men dancing on a rooftop, women are hidden inside the house, behind the blinds, dancing too. Each group is strictly segregated by sex which results in a comic situation where men have to dance with other men while women stay apart from them. Monicelli exaggerates the comic angle by pairing the tall and handsome main antagonist with a short partner see Image 4.
It is telling that women are portrayed through the metaphorical bars of a window shutter as if it were a prison, they are enclosed by the window frame and again by the entire shot which portrays them from the outside see Image 5. While women stay inside the house during the heat of a Sicilian day, men enjoy the outside with the view to the sea and light breeze. In Sedotta, Germi also shows clear spatial divisions between male and female environments. While women are depicted mainly inside houses engaged in domestic chores, men are seen outdoors, often in public or working spaces see Image 6.
There, Agnese is unable to stand her ground in the presence of men, she becomes sidelined and overwhelmed by them and fails to give her own testimony of what had happened between her and Peppino. It is seen in the way the shots are framed, where Agnese is physically pushed out of the frames whereas the men take all the prime space, towering over the girl with their big bodies see Image 7.
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To the tune of a non-diegetic song telling the spectator the story about to unfold on screen we see Agnese, the female protagonist, walk through deserted town together with a maid. It is telling in itself that she is accompanied by the maid. Indeed, throughout the movie, we barely ever see the female characters outside of the confinement of the house, and if, they are never alone.
Women who are respected do not venture outside without a chaperon. The climax scene towards the end of the movie is a mirror-image of the first scene: Agnese is dishonored and though accompanied by her family who are also dishonored by her behavior she is not protected by her virtue anymore. A crowd of local men await them in the main square, in the following close-up shots the camera is shaky as if we were walking through the crowd, slowly moving through the mass of male faces smiling knowingly at the culprits. The family struggle to get inside the house and Agnese is abducted by the men trying to prevent her from escaping her fate, which would be forced marriage, the only thing that could erase her wrongdoings and bring back her good name.
If a woman dares to transgress those imaginary boundaries, she is reduced to an object that needs to be put back in place. She is brought back home, within the boundaries of her gender role, where she lies in a state of hysteria and expresses her wish to live in Milan, the faraway big city in the North.
Ultimately, in Sedotta, the category crisis is overcome and the film ends in an expected manner — with the forced marriage of the young couple and Matilde, left with no one to marry her, joining a convent. Women are metaphorically and literally manhandled in order to keep the status quo and conform to the accepted social mores. Agnese is not only locked up as soon as her father learns about her pregnancy, she is also forced to be examined by a midwife, beaten up and shoved around. What is perhaps surprising to the modern spectator, is the fact that those brutal outbursts do not cause much stir among the onlookers and participants in the film.
Men are expected to behave in this way, especially the pater familias, and Don Ascalone assumes his role with much vivacity. Already the first shot of him establishes his position of confidence and power see Image In a close-up shot we see a big and well-fed man, his size emphasized by the framing which cuts part of his head and broad shoulders. He is wearing glasses and reading aloud a letter to his family gathered around the table.
Don Ascalone is painted by Germi with a grotesque flair, most visible in the depiction of his body. He sweats constantly and his stoutness hinders his movements see Image In opposition to this robust figure, his son is presented as an anti-thesis of what a man is supposed to be in the collective Southern psyche. Throughout the movie he is rather inept, quiet and unable to perform what is expected of him.
Upon learning that he must kill Peppino he faints and falls ill. When he finally sets out to his task his pursuit of Peppino is almost farcical, with Peppino running away in church clothes and the coward Antonio finally throwing the pistol at him instead of shooting.
While Don Ascalone is certainly an exaggerated persona, he does have traits of what could be called un Siciliano medio. He goes on to explain that she should have resisted him, he calls her several times puttana, but as soon as he hangs up he turns around and starts flirting with two young blondes. Even more interestingly, the Italian women in the film also seem to believe these outdated schemata. They fall into the trap where they keep reproducing the beliefs and stereotypes fed to them by the surrounding society, they reinforce them by labelling other women who dared to transgress the boundaries of their gender by words such as puttana whore , svergognata shameless , disonorata dishonoured.
Already at the very beginning of her adventure in the UK she stops in shock when a couple passionately kiss in front of her on the street. Only gradually, she learns that what she was taught in Sicily was just one of many lifestyles existing in the world. She starts to understand what Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler described as constructed gender — that we are not born into our gender but instead we learn it. It is a social construct that differs between cultures and societies. In both movies gender roles are rigid and extremely traditional; women are mostly seen inside or in domestic environments performing tasks such as cooking, cleaning or sewing.
Men, on the other hand, belong to the outer sphere, they gather in public places where they talk, smoke and gossip as observed by Natalie Fullwood in Cinema, Gender and Everyday Space. It is usually to resolve a problem but even then, the bulk of the conversation and activities is done by men. Also the issues of poverty and materialism of the economic boom Italian maids in the UK , the clash between two different countries on the opposite poles of moral spectrum. The great transformation and how it changed the South, the economic boom.
Exodus from the South towards the North and from the rural areas towards the cities Ginsborg La ragazza tells the story shared by many Italian women of the South who ventured to the UK in search of a job as maid. It is perhaps in this film that the differences between rural, traditional Sicily and the North of Europe are most striking. Monicelli throws his characters into a completely foreign setting of the UK where not only language is an obstacle for them but also customs.
The conservative ways do not belong there and cause much amusement and confusion. Probably the most visible change takes places in the sartorial department. Assunta arrives in the UK dressed all in black, with extremely long hair coiffed in a rather traditional braid. She is immediately confronted, and contrasted, with her future employer, who has short hair and is dressed in bright pink see Image The change in clothes reflects a more profound change that takes place inside Assunta.
As she is confronted with the British society, she starts to see her own country from a different perspective. She no longer sees women who are free to sleep with men as whores, she in fact engages herself in an affair, and takes up a job in modelling. When her love interest, Dr Osborne, asks her how has she been doing, she answers by showing him her legs starring in an advert see Image The film ends in a manner unusual for the Italian comedies, with no wedding but also no deaths.
This scene can be read as a metaphor of Sicily, trying to catch up with the fast- changing morals and norms, but it ultimately fails as the mentality of people cannot be easily changed. As Assunta tries to reconcile the two worlds she is haunted by nightmares, where she returns back to Sicily only to be scolded by her family for missing the target. In this imagined Sicily, the sea is rough and the town is lashed by squally wind.
She moves against the wind in theatrical movements evoking comparisons with the theatre of ancient Greece. She tries to shoot Vincenzo, who shows up suddenly, dressed in the Scottish kilt. The next shot shows Assunta now scantily dressed and with blonde wig on. Separate from the women are the men, all in black trousers and white shirts.
They throw offences at her, laughing at her shame. This again, harks back to the ancient theatre traditions, where the chorus provided comments to the play and acted as one entity. Here, the men and women of Sicily are metaphorical representations of the old ways of life, the guardians of the traditional values.
They provide an exaggerate contrast for the very liberal lifestyle in the UK. In both films music plays an important role as an indicator of modernity. As he relaxes on his bed with a small radio in the background lures a big statue of Madonna, a visible contrast between the traditional values and religion and the modern revolution see Image The opening scene of La ragazza is a close-up shot of a brand new portable audio player playing s pop rock. In Sedotta, the clash with the modernity is doomed to fail from the beginning. The rigid social rules do not allow the tragic couple to follow their desires, they must fulfil the request of the tradition and get married although none of them wants that.
The traditional way of life as presented in the films is obviously completely incompatible with the new changes coming. But what is more, and what Germi manages to show brilliantly, is the ultimate failure of the old ways to accommodate the needs and desires of either men or women.
In the end, neither Peppino nor Agnese end up happy, and Don Ascalone dies trying to restore the status quo. Assunta, who at first rejects the modern morals and patterns of behavior, eventually gives in and embraces her new lifestyle in Britain. It is poignant that it is a female character who manages to adapt herself and ultimately enjoy the new lifestyle.
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