Italian actress Sophia Loren takes home the 1961 Academy Award for Best Actress in her portrayal of Cesira, a widow and mother of a twelve-year-old daughter (Eleonora Brown), who both escape from Rome during World War II to return to the safety of her family in the hills of her birth village. The story is based upon the true story of the atrocities that transpired during the collapse of Mussolini’s Fascist Party.
The most horrific of these war retributions came in the form of Marocchinate - a word loosely translated in Italian as “Moroccans’ deeds.” In the aftermath of the May 1944 “liberation” of a swath of Italy by Allied Forces - the victory at the Battle of Monte Cassino – rogue Moroccan units under French command pillaged, murdered and raped the Italian hillside.
In Two Women, Loren and her daughter are gang-raped in the sanctuary of a bombed out church by a band of turbaned marauders after surviving the bombing of Rome and close encounters with fly-by shootings, AWOL Russians and hungry Nazis. The scenario is a nod to the controversial WWII US bombing of an abbey that was acting as shelter for Italian refugees.
The film is originally shot in Italian and marked the first time an non-English speaking role was awarded an Oscar. The film was directed by Vittorio De Sica who one of the leaders of the Italian Neorealist movement which focused on life after wartime in war-torn Italy. The film was produced by Loren’s husband, Carlo Ponti who also produced films by and with Federico Fellini, Dino De Laurentiis, and Michelangelo Antonioni.
Religious themes swirl about the film: references concerning the Vatican (who were in cahoots with Mussolini) , pronouncements from Pope Pius XI and one - honest to God - straight-up reading from the Bible.
Shot beautifully in black & white.