“There’s no divorce in Italy, but the law is lenient in matters of honor.”
With divorce illegal in Italy, an unhappily married Sicilian (Marcello Mastroianni) in love with his younger cousin (Stefania Sandrelli) plots to catch his wife (Daniela Rocca) in the arms of another man (Leopoldo Trieste) and murder her in an “honor killing”.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Italian Films
- Marcello Mastroianni Films
- Plot to Murder
Divorce, Italian Style was an international box office hit upon its release, and it’s easy to see why. Director Pietro Germi — who originally set out to make a serious film — perfectly captures the Sicilian “code of honor”, which stipulates that murder can be excused, but divorce is unthinkable (a paradoxical ethos ripe for satirizing). Marcello Mastroianni — fresh from his performance in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita — is wonderful in the lead role, playing a man we want to despise, but instead can’t help giggling at: his perennial deadpan expression and occasional facial twitches are truly hilarious. Fortunately, the plot of Divorce… is never predictable — there are enough twists and turns to keep us in constant anticipation about what will happen next. When Cefalu (Mastroianni) conveniently discovers that his wife has a prior love interest, for instance, he doesn’t show even the slightest twinge of jealousy. And the conclusion — an extremely clever final shot — is the epitome of sweet justice.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Marcello Mastroianni’s performance; as noted in the New York Times review, “Not since Charlie Chaplin’s beguiling Verdoux have we seen a deliberate wife killer so elegant and suave.”
- An effective film score by Carlo Rustichelli
Yes. This comedic gem — which garnered Mastroianni an Oscar nomination, and won an Oscar for best original screenplay — should be seen by all film fanatics. Listed in the back of Peary’s book as a Personal Recommendation and a film with Historical Importance.
- Foreign Gem
- Oscar Winner or Nominee