Giuseppe Tornatore’s Maléna (a film that could have been more accurately called How To Stalk Maléna) details a town’s obsession with one of its female inhabitants. Focusing primarily on Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro)’s fixation on the woman, the film plays with ideas of social standards.
Renato’s obsessive lust for Maléna (Monica Bellucci), the town’s widow, echoes the thoughts of most of the men in town. Stopping whatever they happen to be doing just to oggle her, the men of the film are made out to be ruled by their desires, driven crazy by the allure of Maléna. But, after several accusations, the town is quick to label her a prostitute, and only Renato defends her honour. Although it may sound chivalrous, such a task entails staring at her through spy holes in her house to ensure she’s maintaining her dignity.
Having been ostracised by the town, and with no income whatsoever, Maléna has to resort to sleeping with greedy men to survive. Her actions cause the town to vilify her, casting her aside in a very public act of humiliation.
Maléna is a film set atop the far cries of World War II. Due to its absorbing story you’d be forgiven forgetting there’s a war going on when Americans roll in to celebrate their victory. Although its comments on the vilification of its main character are strong, the film retains a sense of humour thanks to numerous humorous segments. Renato’s adolescent fixation on Maléna, although potentially disturbing, are dealt with with charm and a certain light-heartedness. His father’s initial disdain for his bedroom activities leads to fears of his being possessed while Renato’s own wild film-like fantasies add a neat contrast to the film’s more depressing scenes.
A quirky and original idea, Maléna makes for surprisingly entertaining viewing that manages to pack a punch or two, too.