Divorce Italian Style
) is a 1961 Black Comedy
by Italian filmmaker Pietro Germi. The film details impoverished
Sicilian aristocrat Don Ferdinando " Fefè" Cefalù who lives in a ruin of a stately mansion with his large family that includes his father, a notorious gambler and womanizer; his saintly mother; his Old Maid
sister (often joined by her boyfriend, who works as an undertaker); his loving and smothering wife, Rosalia. Also occupying the mansion (in fact a greater part of it) are Fefè's unpleasant Uncle Calogero (who actually owns the place thanks to bailing out Fefè;s father) and his family, the most important of whom from Fefè's perspective is Calogero's beautiful 16-year old daughter, Angela, who he loves/lusts after, and who he discovers returns his affections.
The film revolves around Ferdinando's plot to escape marriage with Rosalia and to marry Angela by murdering Rosalia. He seeks to receive a slap-on-the-writ for the crime, seizing on a provision of the Italian penal code which allows a "wronged" husband to receive a light sentence for killing his wife (and usually her lover as well) if he catches them "in the act". So, Fefè decides to set Rosalia up to have an affair, so that he can murder her and benefit from the code provision. Hilarity Ensues
This film contains examples of:
- Celebrity Paradox: One setpiece in the movie involves the townsfolk going to see a showing of La Dolce Vita, which starred Marcello Mastroianni, who plays Ferdinando. Ferdinando does not stay to watch the whole film, and thus does not see "himself" onscreen.
- Cuckold: The plot more or less revolves around Ferdinando setting up his own cuckolding, and after Rosalia runs away with her lover, people start calling him this behind his back and later on, to his face.
- Divorce Requires Death: The entire plot revolves around this trope- Fefè plots to murder his wife since he can't divorce her. In fact, the film's title amounts to a bitter joke that his plot is the Italian version of divorce.
- Double Standard: In-universe, it is noted how the relevant law in the Italian penal code refers to a man avenging honor, thus seemingly ruling out any woman being able to benefit from the provision. Fefè is actually inspired by the case of a murderess, who received a relatively light sentence of 8 years for killing the man who impregnated and abandoned her. However, the provision of the Italian code demands a maximum sentence of 7 years and Fefè himself ends up receiving 3 years- slightly less than the minimum, so the system is definitely favoring men over women when it comes to Honor Killing.
- Girls With Mustaches: Rosalia has a faint mustache on her upper lip.
- Honor Killing: Central to the plot is a practice of Honor Killing done by cuckolded men which was effectively endorsed by the legal system of the time.
- Karma Houdini: Ferdinando ends up being one for the most part He's imprisoned for 3 years- slightly less than the minimum sentence for the murder he committed- and is when he returns home is welcomed as a hero by the whole town. He marries Angela and ends up happier than he's been in years. The only wrinkle on everything turning out perfectly for him is that the very last scene indicates that Angela will soon be cuckolding him, although he's oblivious to it.
- The Mafia: One of the prominent citizens of the town to whom Ferdinando pays respect is The Don who heads the local Mafia. Early in the film, Ferdinando considers seeking him out in order to arrange Rosalia's murder, but rules it out because he'd be indebted to The Don for the rest of his life. Still, The Don does help Fefè by disclosing to him the location where Rosalia and her lover were holed up.
- The Perfect Crime: While Ferdinando's plotting is atypical in that he fully expects and plans to be caught and jailed, it fits the trope in that he sets up circumstances that will allow him to commit premeditated murder and receive a very light sentence.
- Villain Protagonist: Ferdinando is plotting to murder his loving wife for about 90% of the film and leching on Angela for the other 10%, but thanks to his POV and the film's humorous tone, he's oddly sympathetic.