May 08, 2004

Swept Away (1975)

I did see a few minutes of Madonna's recent take on this 1975 Italian import drama. What cheese. But I did not expect the original to be a politically charged drama. Westerners like moi do not expect this from the premise of a man and a woman getting shipwrecked on a Mediterranean island. She, the rich capitalist; he, the poor communist who hates rich people with a passion.

This is no comedy. The interactions between the characters are intense and insulting and the dialog on the screen is hard to keep up with. You have to read subtitles. Incredible acting and interplay though. It is as though the two of them are living it.

Once they are on the island, he is the one who can fish and bring in food, which means he has all the capital, and he punishes the rich and beautiful blonde from northern Italy. She ordered him and his crewmates around on the sailboat mercilessly and now the tables are turned. They get lost together when she decides that she wants to go swimming, and he gets the job of taking her out on the dinghy even though it's getting too late in the evening. The engine on the little boat breaks down and they wind up adrift.

She is a total pain-in-the-ass in her bikini, cursing the crewman for getting them lost, demeaning his race, and constantly whining -- even when they try to sleep.

Swept Away is very educational. I didn't not know that the northern Italianos were so prejudiced against the southerners that they call them niggers. The southerners are darker, more Meditteranean. They look more like Greeks.

Once they find the deserted island, he turns her into slave labor, making her wash his underpants to earn her food. He is very abusive towards her, slapping her around -- but she falls in love anyway. You knew they had to start fucking at some point. She even lets a yacht pass the island without getting its attention, she is so enthralled with being alone on the island with this commoner who controls her.

The scenes of the two of them are so emotionally and physically violent that the film must make an impression.

When I saw the few minutes of Madonna's flick, she looked like shit. This woman, Mariangela Melato, is beautiful however, and Giancarlo Giannini is powerful as the representative of the (mythical) underclass.

I think director Lina Wertmuller intended this as an indictment of capitalism, but the actions of the man, I think, illustrate that capitalism is the system that comes most naturally. Whoever can produce the goods, has the power, and that's just the way it is.

Thanks to Jeff for loaning us the DVD and certain library books, research of which aided greatly in enjoying this film.

Posted by Wayne at May 8, 2004 11:50 PM

'tis an amazing move-eye. There are so many things WRONG with the Madonna version which is too bad; it could've been a hoot. By the way, Ms. Wertmueller was the producer of several pro-Nazi propaganda movies.

Posted by: Jeff Hartzer at May 10, 2004 08:52 PM

That is odd that she would go from promoting nazism to communism. She must be anti all the time.

Posted by: Wayne at May 10, 2004 11:54 PM
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