1941-1950DramaItalian Cinema under FascismItalyMario Camerini

Mario Camerini – I Promessi Sposi aka The Spirit and the Flesh (1941)


Alessandro Manzoni’s book I Promessi Sposi from 1823 seems to be one of the best kept secrets of the whole Italian literature. While by many considered to be the greatest novel ever written in the Italian language, it doesn’t seem to have a particularly strong reputation abroad. I first heard about it from an Italian friend during a long night of Totò films and beer some months ago, but when doing some googling after watching Camerini’s film during a train trip yesterday, I realized that I actually have a Norwegian translation myself, bought some years back when I spent most of my time going to book sales in Oslo and filling up my parents’ attic with everything I came across.

In other words, JMS’ serious translation work gives us all the chance to get introduced to this great novel, here in Mario Camerini’s version from 1941 (there are several other versions as well). The 1941 film might be a tad academic and lacks the light touch of Camerini’s white telephone comedies of the 30s, but this is all in all very good handicraft from one of the forgotten masters of Italian cinema. Although it has none of the big stars that we associate with the Italian pre-Neo realist film industry, Promessi is a lavish Lux production that never lowers itself to becoming a dull swashbuckler. The Fascist government promoted it as an “official” film at the time after Camerini convinced them that it was “a film that Italy needed to do”. According to the director himself, however, the work is in fact explicitly anti-fascist in the way it portrays the exploitation of the helpless by the powerful.


Plot summary from Imdb

I promessi sposi (1941)

Lumbardy, Italy, seventeenth century. Renzo and Lucia’s love story is jeopardized by Don Rodrigo, a wicked nobleman, who is interested in Lucia. When she refuses his attentions he has her kidnapped and brought to a convent whose prioress is a nun as wicked as he is. The two youths will have to go through a lot of misfortunes before being reunited and being able to marry. Written by Salvatore Santangelo {[email protected]}


Subtitles:Italian HOH sub/idx and srt,English

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