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Film / Little World of Don Camillo

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Little World of Don Camillo (Italian: Don Camillo; French: Le Petit Monde de don Camillo) is a 1952 Italian-French comedy film directed by Julien Duvivier, starring Fernandel and Gino Cervi. It is the first film of the Don Camillo franchise. It is based on the novel Don Camillo (1948) by Giovannino Guareschi. René Barjavel cowrote the screenplay.

Don Camillo (Fernandel) is a catholic priest in Brescello, a village in the Po Valley in post-World War II Northern Italy. The communists won the election and their leader Giuseppe Bottazzi aka "Peppone" (Cervi) becomes the new mayor. Camillo and Peppone were both members of the Resistance during the war, but they are also bitter rivals for political and spiritual supremacy over the small community.

Followed by a sequel, The Return of Don Camillo.


Little World of Don Camillo provides examples of:

  • Back to School: After Peppone is elected to mayor, he and his comrades (who are mostly ill-educated farmers and craftsmen) go to take evening classes from the old village schoolmarm. She however refuses to accept Peppone as a student because she can remember too many of his youthful pranks.
  • Badass Preacher: Don Camillo has no problems clobbering fifteen comrades or throwing a table at them for mocking him, nor does he have any problem threatening the communist mayor and his gang with one of the submachine guns they were hiding to obtain funding for his kindergarten project.
  • Book Dumb: Peppone dropped out of school early and is literate only in the most technical sense. That doesn't in any way stop him from getting elected as mayor.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Gina and Mariolino are childhood friends. In the beginning of the film, Gina comes back to the village. She meets Mariolino and they immediately fall in love with each other. They get married in the end.
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  • Chummy Commies: Peppone and his comrades are depicted as poor people trying to have a better life. Don Camillo himself, even if he does not approves the methods of the communists, considers that the real problem is the egoism of the landowners.
  • Confessional: Peppone confesses to Don Camillo that he hit him over the head with a club.
  • Cool Guns:
    • Don Camillo owns a Carcano rifle, and grabs it at the start of the movie when it looks like Peppone's supporters, that Camillo had just pissed-off, were about to storm the church.
    • Camillo gets rid of the weapons from World War II that Peppone was hiding but keeps an M38 submachine gun just in case... which proves useful to blackmail Peppone later on.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Between Don Camillo and 15 comrades from the big city who laughed at him when he passed by them on his bike.
  • Due to the Dead: Peppone, communist die-hard that he is, not only sticks up for Signora Christina's right to have her coffin draped in the flag of the Italian monarchy, he also threatens to kick the ass of anyone who starts anything over it, and is one of the pall-bearers (dressed in the red scarf he wore as a partisan, no less.)
  • Everyone Is Armed: About everyone in town owns a gun including Don Camillo (who has a military-issue rifle and a submachinegun at home, and is alleged to have a mortar hidden somewhere) and the mayor Peppone (who owned a large arsenal before don Camillo set it on fire (and stole a submachinegun from it). Justified, as the movie is set shortly after World War II and those who have guns are former partisans who still kept their weapons.
  • Feuding Families: The Filottis and the Bruscos are neighbours and they hate each other. The Filottis are rich and catholic, while the Bruscos are poor and communist. They build a wall between their plots.
  • Friendly Enemy: Don Camillo and Peppone can't live with each other, but they also can't live without each other (when the bishop offers to reassign Don Camillo, Peppone strongly rejects the idea). They might fight each other all the time, but it's for ideological and/or political rather than personal reasons. Peppone even names his son after don Camillo (after a fistfight).
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Gina and Mariolino are stopped from drowning themselves in the river by the villagers. After that, their families accept that they get married, so they are happy.
  • Hearing Voices: Don Camillo hears the voice of Jesus himself and he often has conversations with him whenever he is close to the crucifix of his church (and even with the Virgin Mary at some point).
  • Heel Realization: Don Camillo has a moment of this when he graffitis "Peppone is a donkey" regarding the mayor's spelling mistakes on his mural newspaper. Jesus, less-than amused, points out that mocking the guy for being Book Dumb (having to work instead of going to school) is a most witty insult indeed, and Don Camillo makes it up by proofreading Peppone's next proclamation.
  • Hypocrite: Don Camillo is not above this when trying to one-up Peppone; when his soccer team gets beaten by Peppone's, he throws the corrupt referee out of his church after he admitted he had been bribed by the mayor. Jesus of course points out that Don Camillo did the same. Peppone just paid more.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Don Camillo, Peppone and the villagers stop Gina and Mariolino from drowning themselves in the river.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: In a gentle, Reasonable Authority Figure (though only Camillo hears) way.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname:
    • This being rural Italy, many characters are known only by their nicknames, most obviously Peppone's recurring sidekicks Brusco ("the harsh one") and Smilzo ("the skinny one").
    • Peppone himself counts as one. Peppone is augmentative, i.e. "large form" of his first name Giuseppe in Italian, meaning literally "Big Joe".
    • Played straight with Don Camillo, whose last name is never stated.
  • Last Request: The town's schoolmarm asks that the Italian monarchist flag is put on the casket at her funeral. Given the circumstances of Italy becoming a republic and that it was not long after World War II, this is a big request and many of the town council try to veto it... Then the mayor Peppone (a communist, who voted to depose the king in the referendum) reminds everyone that in town it's the communists who are in charge and he, as their leader, will grant her dying wish and personally throw out of the window anyone who tries to stop him, and is among the pall bearers (wearing a red scarf, of course).
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: After Peppone confesses to Don Camillo that he hit him over the head with a club. "Lord," groaned Don Camillo, clasping his hands and looking up at the crucifix, "my hands were made for blessing... but not my feet!"
  • Morality Pet: Jesus to Don Camillo.
  • Pals with Jesus: Don Camillo often has conversations with Jesus himself whenever he is close to the crucifix of his church (and even with the Virgin Mary once).
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Jesus is a voice of reason to Camillo. He always points out the questionable things Camillo does, and always convinces him to change his stance for the better or do something to make amends.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After causing a mass brawl, Don Camillo is reassigned to another village as a punishment in the end.
  • La Résistance: Both Don Camillo and Peppone were antifascist partisans in the war and fought on the same side. They still were bickering though.
  • Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony:
    • Don Camillo is asked to give his blessing to the ground-breaking ceremony of the community hall built by Peppone.
    • In the end, the ribbon-cutting ceremonies of the community hall and the kindergarten are held on the same day. The bishop is invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the kindergarten, but he gives an impromptu visit to the community hall.
  • Schoolmarm: Cristina was the only teacher of the village, so she knows all the villagers.
  • Serious Business: Football is taken very seriously by Don Camillo and Peppone. They both want their team to win the game at all costs. After his defeat, Don Camillo talks about it with Jesus, who stresses the fact that it is just game.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Mariolino's reaction when he first meets Gina, who spent some time outside the village.
  • Shout-Out: The narrator explictly compares Gina and Mariolino with Romeo and Juliet.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The lovers: One is from a rich Catholic family, and one from a poor Communist family. Both families living next to each other and fighting all the time. Of course both fall in love, and in the end they try to commit suicide together. Even with a shout out to Romeo and Juliet in the narration, the story is clearly copied from Ovid's Pyramus and Thisbe (they are separated by a wall with a crack in it).
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Don Camillo has to leave his village after a fistfight against the Communists; in retaliation Peppone forbids everyone to see him off at the station. At the next station, Don Camillo finds his parishioners massed on the platform to tell him goodbye. Then, at the station after that, he finds Peppone and his comrades, and Peppone promises him his replacement won't last long and he'll be able to come back soon.
  • Translation Convention: The film takes place in Italy, but in the French version, everybody speaks French. During filming, the French actors spoke French, while the Italian actors spoke Italian. Then the Italian actors were dubbed for the French version. Strangely, everybody speaks French with a Marseille (Mediterranean part of France) accent (Don Camillo, Peppone...).
  • Underestimating Badassery: Comrades from the big city laugh at Don Camillo on his bike. Obviously, they do not know how badass he is. They soon realize that they made a mistake when Don Camillo clobbers 15 of them.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Don Camillo and Peppone are between this and With Friends Like These....
  • Worthy Opponent: When Peppone meets the bishop to denounce Don Camillo's behaviour, the bishop offers to reassign Don Camillo to another village, but Peppone rejects the idea, because Don Camillo is his match. He does not want to confront a weak priest.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: There's an agricultural strike at one of the big farms and the cows spend a day and a night without food or water. At some point Don Camillo has enough, and tries to sneak through the strikers and enforcers to feed the cows. Peppone catches him, and when Don Camillo states his intention he threatens to shoot him.
    "Peppone is stubborn like a pig-headed mule," said calmly Don Camillo, "but he doesn't shoot at the backs of poor priests who do what God commanded them to do." (Unlike some examples of this trope, Peppone doesn't shoot him (of course) but keeps his gun. For the time being.)

Alternative Title(s): Le Petit Monde De Don Camillo