Malavoglia, The House of the Medlar Tree

by Marianne Wi

Malavoglia, is a film based loosely on a book written by Verga named Malavoglia, The House of the Medlar Tree with an eye however loosely on La Terra Trema, The Earth Trembles directed by Visconti back in 1948. I have seen it finally and I was not disappointed, I feared the worst as I love Viscontis La Terra Trema to the point of obsession, a film I saw many years ago, I cried for most of it and am now living in Trezza as a result of it, imagine my trepidation if you can wondering how it had been modernised, I need not have worried.

Director : Pasquale Scimeca is a wonderful Sicilian director, who is not feeling the love in Italy as much as he does abroad, lets not go down that road of prejudices suffice to say that he is known and feted Internationally. Scimeca has a number of features behind him, his first full-length film Il giorno di San Sebastiano, The Day of San Sebastiano released 1994, won a Golden Globe for “Best First Feature” voted for by the press, not that he has not been awarded prices in Italy, his film I briganti di Zabut, Zabut  1998 earned him a special award at Taormina in 1997 and the Jury’s Price in Grosseto.

My favorite film directed by Scimeca was Placido Rizzotto a true story about a Trade Union Leader from Corleone, who was assassinated by the Sicilian Mafia back in 1948, it did very well on The Festival Trail and Italy itelf. Rosso Malpelo another film based on a novel by Verga has sadly never found distribution in Italy and is not out on DVD. I am still waiting to find a copy legal or otherwise, help anyone?. Not that I am condoning piracy, that would be so wrong on so many levels, this being a film blog. Rosso Malpelo hit America by storm, at the Sicilian Film Festival in Miami and Amnesty International, at the Giffoni Film Festival (21 July 2007) gave it an award too. Can I now please have it on DVD ?

Back to Malavoglia, there are many parallels with Visconti’s film, however Scimeca very much made this his own, set in todays Sicily with a struggling family of fishermen with the added touch of an illegal immigrant. It premiered at the London Film Festival in October 2010, followed by Los Angeles International Film Festival 2011 so far it has clocked up 26 Film Festivals around the world including Italy, it has received great reviews. The film has just been released in Italy and has sadly been panned by the critics and the public alike, where the public is concerned perhaps more a case of ” why pay to see poor Sicilians, we see them every year in August”. La Terra Trema, when it was first released back in 1948 was shunned by the public too, as a matter of fact here in Acitrezza it is still not receiving much love,  “A film made by an aristocratic homosexual norther from Italy, what does he know of poor Sicilians”, at least Scimeca has a head start by being Sicilian.

Cast : Antonio Ciurca, Giuseppe Firullo, Omar Noto, Doriana La Fauci, Greta Tomasello, Roberta Zitelli, Elena Ghezzi, Naceur Ben Hammouda, Andrea Paternostro, Giovanni Calcagno, Viscenzo Consolo

Synobsis : We follow a struggling contemporary family of fishermen in a small Sicilian village, their struggle with debts, misfortune, local mafia, drugs, mental illness, interracial romance and their interaction as a family unit is at times touching. They live in The House of the Medlar tree, owns the Providence a boat fraught with accidents, where bad luck follow bad luck, including the death of the father Bastianazzo leading to Maruzza’s the mothers (Doriana Lafauci) mental issues. We see ‘Ntoni (Antonio Ciurca) first encounter with Alfio (Naceur Ben Hammouda) who escapes a ship overflowing with illegal immigrants and their growing friendship. Alfio’s affair with the older sister (Elena Ghezzi) is charming and the younger sister Lia’s decent into loose morals and bad company gives us some great acting. The story is well told and the Sicilian scenery is simply awesome, no special effects for the filming of the storm in Aci Castello, in Sicily a storm is never just a storm in a teacup.

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