Film / Malèna

What is the most obvious course of action if you are a 12-year-old Sicilian boy when the fascist government is taking over and the Allies are bombing your village? Stalk the gorgeous madonna who just recently moved into town. That's basically the entire plot of Malèna, a 2000 Italian romantic drama written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) and starring Monica Bellucci.

Where you live in the world determines which version you can (legally) view of this film. In most of Europe the film features nudity and sexual content involving the boy, but the version seen in North America, the UK and other territories removes enough of this footage that some of the tropes that follow no longer apply.

This film provides examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Since the beginning you have the feel that Malena has no interactions with almost nobody in town (especially the women) and she leaves her house only to visit her elderly father.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Malena's husband turns out to be alive but he lost an arm.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Malena's husband Nino could care less of what she did to survive the war and at the end he's boldly walking down the street with his beloved wife.
  • Back from the Dead: Her husband, at the end of the film.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Subverted since Maléna is not bad but the other women in the town have this attitude. The lawyer actually references the trope when defending her in court.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Even though Renato is actually in love with Malena, his actions to the people gossiping about her have undertones of this.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The townswomen let Maléna back into their lives, she's reunited with her husband, and Renato finally talks directly to her... before she walks out of his life forever. The narrator (Renato as an adult) then tells us that he's known many women who asked him not to forget her, but the only woman who never asked - Maléna - is the only one he's never forgotten.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Maléna herself cycles through all three colours in the film.
  • Break the Cutie: The plot totally bends over to break Malena. It almost succeeds, specially when the other women beat her bloody purely for being prettier than them.
  • Brick Joke: Renato makes his father swear to buy him a pair of long pants when Il Duce dies. After quite a while when it's confirmed Mussolini has been overthrown, we see Renato getting a pair of pants made for him.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Maléna. The film is more actually Renato's story and how she fits into it.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The men of the town, by Maléna.
  • Erotic Dream: Renato has them about Maléna.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Maléna's long dark hair represents her purity and innocence. When she cuts it and dyes it red it is symbolic of her becoming a prostitute. The blonde hair then symbolises her giving herself over to the Germans. Her natural brown hair has grown back but not completely at the end, showing how she still carries the scars of what happened to her.
  • Fan Disservice: Maléna is dragged into the middle of the town in her lingerie and beaten savagely. She's half nude but also covered in blood and crying.
    • The scene at the brothel comes across as this as well. You have all the whores surrounding Renato (who mind you, is around 12-13) and mockingly blowing kisses at him and making fun of him. The way the scene is done makes it more creepy than sexy.
  • Foreshadowing: When Maléna walks through the town as a redhead for the first time, one woman can be heard saying "I'd like to cut off all that hair". Oh dear...
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Ohhh boy, Renato and his schoolmates should provide the page image.
  • Imagine Spot: Renato has a hilarious one where he imagines his teacher is Malena and says "is it true you're getting married" only for the elderly woman to angrily throw him out of the class.
  • Karma Houdini: The women of the town who beat up Malena in public and her lawyer who rapes her.
  • Woman in White: Used early on with Maléna to distinguish her from the other women.