Malèna (2000) Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. With Monica Bellucci, Giuseppe Sulfaro, Luciano Federico and Pietro Notarianni.
After receiving resounding acclaim for his film Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore co-writes and directs another coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old boy called Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro), who becomes hopelessly besotted with a beautiful woman called Malèna (Monica Bellucci) as Italy enters the Second World War in 1940.
Although the war plays a big part in determining the events that surround each character’s life, we see the film from Renato’s young perspective, meaning that his all-consuming fixation on Malèna reduces the war to little more than background noise. Straight away, there’s beauty in the innocent purity of that; one of the most significant events of the past few centuries reduced to nothing because a boy is in love.
The score, written by the legendary Ennio Morricone describes many things, most prominently, beauty and the nobility of bashful, unrequited love. It’s one of those pieces of music that as you’re listening to it, you’re mentally adding it to your Spotify playlist.
The cinematography by Lajos Koltai is flat-out gorgeous. The camera adores Monica Belliccu, telling us stories without words about her struggles and the burden of having to live with her own beauty, the cause of being equally worshipped and hated – the men all want to court her while the jealous women all want to scratch her eyes out.
In his first film, Giuseppe Sulfaro is a joy as Renato. Observing him scurrying around the cobbled streets of Italy on his bicycle, following Malèna wherever she goes is at first adorable and amusing. But as things develop, he becomes more of a Guardian Angel to her, which gives way to some deeply moving moments.
While there is darkness and some frankly upsetting scenes – because the film is told from such a young perspective, there is also an abundance of humour. Renato’s fantasy visions of himself and Malèna as a couple are both funny and charming. With Bellucci set to stun and cinematography and music to melt your soul, there is much to fall in love with about Malèna. 4.5/5