“I’m suffering for love. I’m suffering!”
Anna Magnani stars in two short films directed by Roberto Rossellini: in “The Human Voice,” she talks with her soon-to-be ex-lover the day before he’s due to marry someone else; and in “The Miracle”, her simple-minded goatherd is seduced by a man (Federico Fellini) she believes to be St. Joseph, and is soon mocked by her town for being an unwed and delusional pregnant woman.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Anna Magnani Films
- Federico Fellini Films
- Italian Films
- Jean Cocteau Films
- Obsessive Love
- Roberto Rossellini Films
After starring in Roberto Rossellini’s neo-realist classic Open City (1945), Anna Magnani re-teamed with Rossellini for this interesting pair of short films, originally packaged together as L’Amore (though Peary lists it simply as The Miracle in the back of his GFTFF). The first film — based on a 1930 monoplay by Cocteau — consists of nothing more than distressed Magnani on the telephone with her lover — and the fact that we remain as engaged as we do speaks volumes about her gifts as a compelling actress (though its repeated revival in recent years also indicates the enduring nature of its theme and unusual format).
The second film — with its focus on (perceived) immaculate conception and pregnancy outside of marriage — was, not surprisingly, highly controversial upon release.
It was repackaged for American distribution in 1950 — along with Renoir’s A Day in the Country (1936) and Pagnol’s Jofroi (1933) — as The Ways of Love, and ended up serving as the basis for a Supreme Court case about free speech. According to a 2008 book entitled The Miracle Case: Film Censorship and the Supreme Court, by Laura Wittern-Keller and Raymond J. Haberski, Jr.:
Many Catholics saw The Miracle as a mockery of the virgin birth… Archbishop Francis Cardinal Spellman denounced it from the pulpit as “subversive to the very word of God” and an insult to Italian womanhood, pickets from the Catholic War Veterans surrounded the theater each night, and Catholics bombarded the state censors with a letter writing campaign, hoping to get The Miracle’s exhibition license revoked.
Thankfully, “A surprisingly unanimous Court ruled in The Miracle case that movies did indeed fall under the free speech and free press protections of the First Amendment.” Film fanatics can now view both short films in their original Italian configuration, and enjoy them simply for Magnani’s powerhouse performances.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Anna Magnani as “The Woman on the Telephone” and “Nannina”
- Fine cinematography
No, though it’s certainly worth a look both for Magnani’s performances and for its historical relevance. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.