Regarding the Axis powers of the Second World War, we have always been willing to cut the Italians a big old break. The Japanese pulled a sneak attack on us at Pearl Harbor, and the Germans were responsible for the holocaust, but we like to think that the Italians were basically good people who just got carried away by Mussolini’s speeches. And so, an actual incident during the war, when the Italians teamed up with the Greeks to fight against their former allies, the Germans, fits right in with our inclination to grant the Italians favorable treatment.
In the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the Italian soldiers that occupy a Greek island have not seen any real action, but that is not surprising, because I have never seen an Italian soldier kill an American in a World War II movie. Moreover, they don’t seem to care about the war. They just want to sing opera. Isn’t that nice? The Greeks also seem to like the Italians better. Despite the fact that the Italians are still part of the Axis forces at this point in the movie, nobody seems to have a problem with the fact that Palagia (Penélope Cruz) is obviously in love with an Italian officer, Captain Corelli (Nicolas Cage), and even has sex with him; but another girl, who just gives a German officer a friendly kiss on the cheek, is lynched by the Greeks for being a traitor.
Reality or no reality, the decision by the Italians to fight with the Greeks against the Germans rather than simply handing over their arms when Mussolini surrenders to the Allies turns out to be a big mistake, because except for Corelli, they are all slaughtered by the Germans for being traitors. But then, that only makes us like the Italians even more.