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La Ciociara (in English: Two Women) is a film starring Sophia Loren. I’ve been hosting a film festival of Sophia Loren’s film recently and I began with this one which is one of my all-time favorites. The film is a revelatory moment in Sophia Loren’s career. It is a powerful film directed by Vittorio de Sica in which she plays Cesira, a widow trying to protect her thirteen-year-old daughter, Rosetta from the horrors of war during the allied invasion of Italy. For her poignant performance, Sophia won an Oscar.
Sophia is amazing in this film. She easily plays so many emotions. She beautifully shows us pride, desperation, fear, passion, anger, fury, happiness, grief, sorrow, worries, and above all, love. From a simple heartfelt exclamation “Oh!” to her expressive hand gestures, or the way she caresses her child, it seems she is not acting at all. Rather it is as though she has become the character of Cesira.
The film won the American Academy Award in 1962 due to heavy promotion in the States. But unlike other Academy award winners, regardless of the exploitation of the media, Sophia truly deserved to win, purely on her instinctual acting merits. Prior to this film la Loren had just made her film debut in Hollywood. She was considered a newcomer, a sexy, sensual Latin woman who sang to Cary Grant’s children (as in Houseboat). But, this is definitely not the Sophia you will find in the film “La Ciociara”. Instead, she plays her role without vanity, channeling her authentic earthy peasant roots. Yet despite playing a humbler more genuine female character, she cannot escape exuding natural pulsing sexuality and despite her homespun stockings and simple ill-fitting cotton dresses, you can’t help but exclaim: what a beautiful woman Sophia is – inside and out! What an amazing woman!
I think it is too bad that the English version of the film “La Ciociara” has been translated to “Two Women.” The title in English is a bit misleading and misses the point altogether. The original title means “the woman from Ciociaria”. Ciociaria is the name of an area in central Italy, part of the Province of Rome. The name Ciociaria comes from the primitive footwear of its inhabitants called “le ciocie”. Today the sandals are not used in everyday life but remain as a traditional symbol. The original title of the film refers to A woman from Ciociaria and that woman is Cesira.
The story is relatively simple. Having fled Rome due to allied bombings, Sophia, aka Cesira, returns to her native village in the mountains in the Ciociaria. Years earlier she had left the area of poverty to go to Rome with the first guy to ask her. She says at one point: “I’d like to see you living like I did, sleeping in a shed! And we ate once a day, that’s all. So, I went with the first one that said: ‘I will bring you to Rome’. I married Rome, not him.”
But, after her husband’s death, the widow returns home, to shield her daughter from the horrors of war. Loren’s chemistry with Eleonora Brown (the girl who plays her daughter, Rosetta) is just excellent. Of course, despite her best attempts, nothing ultimately can protect both the mother and daughter from being permanently damaged by war.
Yet, somehow you believe that the love they feel for one another will in the end save them and Cesira will go to her grave fighting for her daughter, trying with every breath to make a better life for her. In the last scene, Cesira comforts her distraught daughter, rocking her to and fro telling Rosetta to: “Sleep, sleep, sleep, sweet child”. Cesira hopes that Rosetta will awaken in a better world and there will always be a strong bond that will keep the two together.
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