A Special Day (Una Giornata Particolare) (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Best Actor (Marcello Mastroianni) and Best Foreign Language Film (Italy).
Watched September 8, 2012.
A Special Day is an Italian film that takes place on the day that Adolf Hitler first met Mussolini: May 8, 1938. It opens with old black and white footage of Hitler’s train rolling in, the crowds gathered to greet him, and the multitude of flags fluttering from every window and ledge. The entire film revolves around this day, but Hitler graces very little of it. In fact, after the introduction, we see no more of him and are instead treated to color shots (although muted) of a dilapidated apartment building that is continuously ringing with the radio broadcast of the momentous parade. Antionetta (Sophia Loren) is a housewife with six children and a demanding, adulterous husband (John Vernon). Her only constant companions are the family bird and the warden (Francoise Berd). She is almost the only person in the entire building who hasn’t gone to the parade–she has too much to do! She is a passive fascist, which is fitting because her husband works in the government and loves Hitler (he wants to name their next child Adolf).
As Antionetta begins her daily cleaning routine, the pet bird suddenly escapes, and miracle of miracles, it happens to land right outside the window of the only remaining tenant, Gabriele (Marcello Mastroianni). We notice immediately that these two characters are both incredibly alone, although in different capacities. Gabriele is what the caretaker says is an antifascist, although he claims the fascists are anti-Gabriele. The two connect through the bird, and then coffee, and their day-long relationship continues to crescendo. Although Antionetta is concerned about what others might think if they were seen alone in her apartment, she quickly ceases to be apart from him. They come to a brief understanding of one another–to find companionship and love in the arms of someone they should not or cannot.
It is slow moving and transparent. The radio broadcast that is boring into your brain serves as a reminder of how the politics of the time where overbearing on its subjects and yet they attempted to live their lives normally. The static cinematography emphasizes the standstill of their lives–the monotony and routine repetition. Through the use of long moving, following shots they reveal that through this monotony and oppression, life goes on, and opposes many communist ideals that it does not all come back to one man but is individualized by everyone who has their own life, opinions, worries.
I wasn’t a fan of the sound mixing. It is a problem I notice with a lot of older films, and that is that their foley art* is exaggerated and occasionally unrealistic. The sound mixing also has things happening either too loudly or too softly. It was a bit distracting for me.
Sophia Loren was considered a great beauty and therefore to see her dressed down to look like a tired and worn mother in her forties shows her dedication to the film. She has an innocence that the audience can connect to, which despite the subtitles and muted colors, made the film enjoyable. If you are looking for a slow film and want to immerse yourself in the late 30’s of Rome, I would encourage you to search out this film, although it was pretty hard for me to find. There are a few twists here and there that are somewhat predictable but are interesting character facets.