Swept Away (1974)

In Swept Away, Raffaella (Mariangelo Melato), who is a rich woman, her husband, and their rich friends rent a yacht and go sailing in the Mediterranean. She and her husband carry on screaming arguments about political ideology, with Raffaella expressing her fascist views with much vehemence. We all expect Italians in movies to be passionate, but we have never seen anything like this. Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini) is a deckhand and a communist, whom she treats like dirt.

When Raffaella and Gennarino get stranded on a deserted island, he decides to reverse roles with a vengeance. He beats her into submission, forcing her to call him Signor Carunchio, while calling her Raffaella (when not calling her a bitch or an industrial whore), instead of Signora Lanzetti, as he did on board the yacht. Then, when all this verbal and physical abuse has finally made her want him to ravish her brutally, he says that is not enough. She must tell him she loves him, kiss his feet, and worship him like a god. She actually does kiss his feet and submit to him totally, falling madly in love with him. But he still beats her whenever she misbehaves, as when she presumes to think instead of doing what she is told.

This may be a minor point, but it is odd that Gennarino, the communist, believes that women should be totally subservient to men, which we would be more likely to associate with fascism.

Anyway, the day finally arrives when a boat comes within sight of the island. Raffaella does not want to signal them because she fears being rescued might spoil their happiness. But Gennarino believes that only if they are rescued can he be sure that she truly loves him. Once rescued, Raffaella might have been able to thwart public opinion and marry Gennarino, but when she sees him being greeted by his wife, who talks about their children, she has misgivings. But given Gennarino’s attitude toward women, why should he care about what happens to his wife? He wants Raffaella to go back and live on the island with him, but she decides against it. He reverts to calling her a bitch and an industrial whore.

Because this is supposed to be a comedy, we hesitate to take all this Mediterranean misogyny too seriously, but there simply is not enough humor in this movie to overcome the revulsion we feel at the way he treats her, especially since the movie seems to prove he is right in believing that a man can make a woman love him by degrading her and beating her.

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