Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Daniela Rocca, Leopoldo Trieste
Director: Pietro Germi
Running Time: 108 mins
Divorce Italian Style (Divorzio all’italiana) is an Italian film about a wealthy man, frustrated with his current wife, who begins plotting a way to kill her and get the minimum jail sentence by disguising it as a crime of passion.
This film is so much fun. Whilst it’s got excellent writing, directing and performances from start to finish that make it a really engaging watch, what I loved most about Divorce Italian Style is how playful it can be with its story. Thanks to a brilliantly funny central performance by Marcello Mastroianni, and a story full of wild and even ridiculous mishaps, there’s a lot to laugh at in this film, but it goes one better than a normal comedy with an intelligent screenplay and wonderful direction.
So, I don’t want you to think that this is a simple, throwaway comedy like the later How To Murder Your Wife, but it’s good to know that you don’t have to be a die-hard fan of Italian cinema to enjoy the film, thanks to its brilliant sense of humour throughout. As bad and immoral as the thought of murdering your wife is, the great thing about this film is that it portrays the main character in both a negative light as well as featuring such an irritating spouse that you do sympathise with his ambitions.
But the real fun of the film is watching Marcello Mastroianni go to the most ridiculous lengths to put his wife into all sorts of traps in order to pull off his killing and get away with the most lenient punishment possible. Mastroianni’s hilarious performance as a tired and frustrated man who, despite his wealth and social status, seems to be absolutely all over the place, is the key ingredient in making this film such an entertaining watch, whilst the way that that frantic show clashes with his classically suave persona makes for even more fun along the way.
Now, whilst Divorce Italian Style is a brilliantly funny movie, it’s also a very cleverly-written one. That’s not just because of its wit and sense of humour, but also because of the fact that it tells the story of an endless stream of bizarre plots and schemes and their even stranger results in such a clear and engaging manner. With such a farcical concept, these sorts of films can turn into just light-hearted flicks, but the great thing about this movie is that, whilst it’s huge fun to laugh along at all the madness on screen, you are still properly invested in the story at hand, and as a result care about the fate of various characters, making for a far more captivating watch from start to finish.
Of course, the film also features some interesting satire on the contemporary Italian society. From some bizarre legal loopholes to the almost medieval class system and social landscape of small towns, there’s a lot of interesting things to read into here as well. However, it’s still the comedy and main story that makes for the most entertainment throughout.
Finally, a word on Pietro Germi’s directing. Apart from being as effortlessly stylish as so many Italian films from the era managed to be, Germi does an excellent job at showing off some of the film’s best visual comedy. Whether it be exaggerating Mastroianni’s character’s frantic behaviour with speeded-up film, or even the odd comical wink to the audience, his direction adds to the film’s playful and fun atmosphere in leaps and bounds.
Overall, I had a huge amount of fun with Divorce Italian Style. Marcello Mastroianni gives a hilarious but also impressive performance in the central role, Pietro Germi’s direction is both stylish and entertaining, and the screenplay features some hugely funny comedy and a good plot that sums up the film’s overall brilliant combination of an interesting and entertaining story with an excellent sense of humour, which is why I’m giving this an 8.5.