Two Women (De Sica, 1960)

Sofia Loren won an Oscar for her performance as Cesira, the beautiful and determined mother of a saintly pre-teen named Rosetta. Both are driven from Rome by American bombings and the imminent battle of supremacy between the Allies and the Axis, Cesira deathly afraid her daughter will be caught in the middle. Ironically, they find danger anyways. Fleeing into the countryside, the two are seemingly hounded by every Italian, German, Russian, American, and finally Moroccan they meet. While Loren’s performance is the heart and soul of the film, the rest leaves a lot to be desired. The arc of the story is intentionally banal, building toward an ominous moment which ends up being a brutally shocking ending. What stands out most is the brilliant sound design that acts as the audio equivalent to De Sica’ s male gaze which stalks mother and daughter throughout. We hear the bombers, troops marching, cat calls from trains, jeeps racing by, and laughter from passing peasants. Like Cesira and Rosetta, we never forget the presence of the male perspective and it’s a suffocating realization. This aspect of Two Women is haunting and when the final violence strikes, the fear completely justified. However, the slow pacing for most of the film builds little character outside of the obvious, basically taking a neo-realist 101 approach to theme and execution. De Sica’s done better.

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