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Film / Chains

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Chains (Catene) is a 1949 film from Italy directed by Raffaello Matarazzo.

Guglielmo and Rosa are a married couple in Naples, with two children. Guglielmo runs an auto repair shop, which is why a hoodlum with a stolen car stops at his shop after the car conks out on the road. Guglielmo tells the hood that he lacks the necessary part so he won't be able to fix the car until the next morning.

The hoodlum reports to his boss, Emilio, who is appalled to hear that his flunky dropped off a stolen car with a mechanic. The two go back to the shop, part in hand, but Guglielmo has gone out for the evening. They knock on the door and are greeted by Rosa—and both Rosa and Emilio are shocked.

It turns out that a long time ago, before the war, Emilio and Rosa were lovers. Emilio got inducted into the army, survived the war, and instead of coming home to Rosa crossed the globe having a series of criminal adventures. Emilio is powerfully attracted to his old girlfriend, even though Rosa tells him that she loves her husband. Emilio winds up staying in town and pretending to invest in Guglielmo's business, as an excuse to stay close to Rosa. He demands that she leave her husband and run away with him, and he won't take "no" for an answer.



  • Action Prologue: The first shot of the movie is someone tearing away down the road at high speed as someone else yells "stop, thief!" After that the film becomes domestic melodrama.
  • Blackmail: After Rosa refuses to run away with him, Emilio gets more demanding, saying that if she doesn't leave with him he'll lie to her husband that they are having an affair.
  • The Dying Walk: The gunshot goes off behind a closed door. A man opens the door to find Emilio coming out. Emilio takes a step and then falls to the ground, as he was the one who got shot.
  • Fainting: Rosa does this in court after lying on the witness stand and claiming that she was in fact having an affair with Emilio.
  • Faux Fluency: The "American" police that arrest Guglielmo in the USA speak English with thick Italian accents.
  • Flashback: Emilio asks for a singer in a restaurant to sing their old song. Rosa has a flashback in which she remembers their romance and Emilio's departure for the war.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Guglielmo walks free (amazingly, "he was having sex with my wife" gets him a full acquittal), but Rosa remains a social outcast, shunned by her family. She is about to throw herself out the window of her room when Guglielmo, who has been told the truth by his lawyer, comes to her door. The Happy Ending follows.
  • Melodrama: A housewife is torn between her respectable husband and her dashing bad boy old lover, the lover gets murdered, the wife lies in court and claims that she cheated on her husband, and she cries a lot.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Part of the flashback of Emilio and Rosa's romance is him rowing her around the bay of Naples, followed by the two of them canoodling in the rowboat.
  • Sweater Girl: Rosa wears some tight sweaters over the course of the film. It's Fanservice, but it's also a subtle hint of some buried passions inside the suburban housewife.
  • Title Drop: The singer in the restaurant sings "what chains must I break to see you once again?" This is the exact moment at which Rosa's son Tonino sees her holding hands with Emilio under the table.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Rosa's flashback ends with her memory of watching Emilio getting on the train, going off to war.
  • Wall Slump: Rosa does this when a neighbor manages to get the door open and reveals that Guglielmo has shot Emilio.
  • You're Cute When You're Angry: Emilio says "You're so beautiful when you're angry" when Rosa tells him to bug off.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Emilio says words to this effect when Rosa picks up the gun sitting on his dresser.

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