The protagonists of THE CONVICTION propose, dispute, deliberate, and extemporize, circling each other with words. Fortunately, this combative language proves fascinating, as the principals debate whether a woman has been raped in the legal sense or coerced in some age-old rite of lust in
which men and women are unequal partners.
On a trip to a museum with her college class, coed Sandra Celestini (Claire Nebout) panics as she's about to leave the building. Certain that she's lost her keys, Sandra retraces her steps, then discovers she's locked in for the night. A virile man, architect and art connoisseur Lorenzo
Colajanni (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), emerges from the shadows and trails her. Taking advantage of Sandra's fragile state, Lorenzo initiates sexual relations. Then, after reveling in her nakedness, Lorenzo disparages Sandra's lack of enthusiasm and hurts her feelings by expressing his disappointment
in the encounter. Sandra charges the practiced seducer with rape.
In court, Lorenzo argues that he did what Sandra secretly desired, and that his impersonal ravishment was just one episode in his search for the kind of perfect beauty idealized in the museum's artwork. In revealing that he had keys to the exit, Lorenzo lends credence to Sandra's claim that she
was taken against her will. While controversy rages, the state attorney (Andrzej Seweryn) tears apart the architect's testimony and, in doing so, infuriates his frustrated wife (Grazyna Szapolowska), who pines for a brutish lover. Although Lorenzo is sentenced to jail, the disconcerted Sandra
pushes a piece of cake into her lawyer's face when they meet accidentally at a birthday party.
Upset and uncertain about his own buttoned-down sexuality, the lawyer visits Lorenzo in prison, where the he-man aesthete lectures him on female psychology. Later, when the attorney rescues a peasant woman from gang rape, she rewards his gallantry with ingratitude. In a coda, Sandra is seen
haunting the art museum--almost lying in wait for the next man drawn to her contradictory erotic signals.
This challenging think-piece illuminates the bitter battle of the sexes in ways that would make an American film blush. Guaranteed to raise the hackles of feminists, THE CONVICTION suggests that women desire to be dominated in romantic affairs--that once attraction is established, they want to
be told what to do. This may be a simplification of the layers of meaning that enrich this movie, but the overall impact of this erotic rush to judgment is shocking--it's a short step from hinting that women want to be carried upstairs like Scarlett O'Hara to suggesting that they're somehow asking
for it. Offering plenty of food for thought, this heated debate about arousal and the various shadings of meaning in the word "No" pour out of the courtroom and into the strife-filled bedroom of the lawyer and his wife. The film's greatest weakness is that it sticks chunks of position-paper talk
into the mouths of the characters, rather than allowing them dimensions beyond their sexual grievances or revealing their contradictory attitudes through engaging dialogue. Since director Marco Bellocchio doesn't choose to shape the speeches with any artistic flourish, THE CONVICTION remains
unadorned monologue art. It's the ideas that excite, rather than the quality of the writing.
Although Bellocchio tries to balance the conflicting points of view (forced sex vs. consensual sex in a calculated power play), he really seems bent on creating an apologia for Lorenzo. Not only does he part company with Sandra, but also with the decent legal arbiter. In fact, by the conclusion,
Seweryn's character seems a figure of ridicule in his failure to go with the orgasmic flow, and Sandra seems an embodiment of the femme fatale, lurking in museum corners like a Lorelei in training. (Extensive nudity, violence, sexual situations)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: The protagonists of THE CONVICTION propose, dispute, deliberate, and extemporize, circling each other with words. Fortunately, this combative language proves fascinating, as the principals debate whether a woman has been raped in the legal sense or coerced… (more)