Similar in theme to KING OF HEARTS, Philippe de Broca's charming antiwar fable, MEDITERRANEO tries to convince viewers that paradise is waiting just around the corner.
While investigating an apparently deserted island in the Aegean Sea during WWII, a brigade of misfit Italian soldiers led by Lt. Montini (Claudio Bigagli) is stranded, their ship sunk by a British attack. Cut off from any means of contact with the outside world, the soldiers soon discover that the
island is far from deserted. Montini's assistant Farina (Giuseppe Cederna) discovers that the villagers have simply gone into hiding, believing their island under attack by the Germans. The soldiers notice that there are no young men in the village, and are informed by the local priest that they
were taken prisoner by the Germans.
Lt. Montini and his men are welcomed into village life: Montini is invited to repaint the church's faded frescoes; Sgt. Lo Russo (Diego Abatantuono) organizes a soccer team; the Munaron brothers, Felice and Libero (Memo Dini and Vasco Mirandola), find a carnal playmate in the lovely shepherdess
(Irene Grazioli); others share the favors of the town prostitute, Vasilissa (Vanna Barba). Farina is a virgin; he can't bring himself to sleep with Vasilissa and falls in love with her instead.
This sweet life passes undisturbed until one day an Italian pilot (Antonio Catalina) lands on the island because of engine trouble, and informs everyone of all the changes that have occurred since 1941. He leaves, promising to send a rescue mission. Spurred by his imminent departure, Farina
finally makes love to Vasilissa, and they decide to marry. Soon after the wedding, a British navy boat comes to take the soldiers away. They also bring with them all the lost village men, disturbing various new relationships. Farina refuses to leave and hides in a barrel of olives, but the rest
depart, the Munaron brothers waving furiously to the pregnant shepherdess as they are taken out to sea.
Forty years later, an elderly Lt. Montini returns to the island on a tourist boat. He sees Vasilissa's grave, but finds his trusty assistant Farina at their little blue house. Farina brings him to meet Sgt. Lo Russo, who returned years before, and the three old men settle in to spend the rest of
their years on the island.
This pleasant fairy tale is the cinematic equivalent of a Club Med vacation. The rag-tag soldiers tumble through a predictable yarn of paradise found, tripping on worn but funny gags that make them all the more lovable. Their island is an Aegean jewel where the golden women are placid and
friendly, the old men dance in the streets, and the priest invites them to reside in the mayor's house. It all comes too easily.
Director Gabriele Salvatores and screenwriter Vincenzo Monteleone forget--or overlook--the fact that these men are Mussolini's warriors, painting them instead as a jolly sporting team. They allow the innocent Farina blithely to marry the prostitute whom five of his friends frequent every day, and
assume that isolated Greek peasants would instantly take these Italians to their bosom. Without any conflict, or real indication that these cheerful, seemingly well-adjusted fellows are running away from anything particularly unpleasant, the perfection of their surroundings has little impact.
One of the few moments of meaning in MEDITERRANEO is when Farina tearfully explains that he's deserting the army because he has no one, no home, in Italy. Diego Abatantuono is amusing as the bullish sergeant, and the other actors are appealing as well, tan and loose, easing into comradely
jocularity. The two female characters are little more than walking dolls with coy expressions. They are pretty but vacuous, much like the film itself. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Similar in theme to KING OF HEARTS, Philippe de Broca's charming antiwar fable, MEDITERRANEO tries to convince viewers that paradise is waiting just around the corner. While investigating an apparently deserted island in the Aegean Sea during WWII, a brig… (more)