“A Special Day”
A Special Movie
There is cause to celebrate now that “A Special Day” has finally been released on DVD. It is a movie that has the best of everything—great acting (Marcello Mastroianni and Sophie Loren), great photography, and a very strong story that encourages you to think about who you are, how you define yourself, how you fit in, whether you are content to accept a role or just break free.
The movie is set against a visit of Hitler to Rome and what develops is a tender love story of friendship, loyalty, homosexuality and fascism. Loren is a housewife and the mother of six who stays at home while her family goes to the Military parade in honor of Hitler and Mussolini. She loves Mussolini and would have loved to have gone with her family. While she is at home, sitting across the yard is Mastroianni contemplating suicide because he is a homosexual and because he has just lost his job. Basically the movie is two people on a roof but there is unity of time and place and the movie s very much in the style of Greek tragedy with the purity and force of this film.
The film really starts to move when Loren and Mastroianni meet, by chance and we get to know the characters, Mastroianni is in a state of despair and badly needs a friend and Loren is threatened by her cheating husband. The film shows a scene when Loren offers her body to him and the rejection naturally comes. She then finds a hunger for this anti-fascist, this homosexual, and to another world aside from the one in which she lives.
The beauty of this movie lies in its craftsmanship. The two actors deliver performances rarely seen. Loren gives one of her finest deliveries on the screen and Mastroianni is right there with her. The movie itself is simple but very powerful and it deals with issues that are quite complicated; fascism, love, homosexuality (especially considering that it was filmed many years before the kinds of films we get today), ordinary people and the human condition (most importantly). Its ending is sad but there is a ray of hope in the way it closes—we feel that things will get better and that someone will understand.
Ettore Scola, the director, focuses on scapegoats of the fascist regime, the outcasts. To seethe unexpected in “A Special Day” is a “special” treat. But what happens in this film is denial of the human being and his intimate personality and being scapegoats means that our heroes’ days are numbered. Every so often I find a movie that touches me deeply and there are not many. “The Lion in Winter” is one and that is because of the brilliant acting of Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, Vanessa Redgrave in “Isadora” is another as is Burton and O’Toole in “Becket”.
“A Special Day” is yet another brilliant film—it is almost a perfect film. It is deeply moving and within its simple story are insights into daily life in Fascist Italy. It hits the viewer hard and is spellbinding even with its few locations. It is an actor’s film and makes a very strong statement as it presents a study in contrast between simplicity and sobriety and ultimate sophistication in content and performance. The two characters are too good for the world they live in.