Producing the Couple, but Not the Happy Ending
Between 1953 and 1958, Pietrangeli directs two full-length feature film, Lo scapolo (1955), starring Alberto Sordi, and Souvenir d’Italie (1957), as well as and one episode in Amori di mezzo secolo entitled Girandola 1910. These films are briefly discussed in the conclusion, a formal choice based on my intention to focus on Pietrangeli's difference. These films, coming at the beginning of his career, show Pietrangeli wrestling with conventions; Lo scapolo, for example, is considered by many the film that most comfortably fits into the Comedy Italian Style genre due to its male protagonist and star, Alberto Sordi. Like Nata di marzo, Pietrangeli with Lo scapolo investigates and criticizes cultural tropes about the economic and social issues surrounding marriage, albeit from a male, not a female, perspective.
With Nata di marzo (1958), Pietrangeli returns to the trope of problematizing marriage from a female perspective as he did in his first film, Il sole negli occhi (1953), but from a very different economic class. The title of Pietrangeli's fourth full-length film begins with a past participle, nata, or “born,” that clues the viewer immediately into a quality key to Francesca’s, the protagonist’s, characterization, how she was born. She is born wealthy, born carefree, born capricious. To briefly summarize the plot of the film, Francesca (Jacqueline Sassard), a young, wealthy Milanese girl, falls in love with Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), an architect, and she manipulates her way into a marriage that she ultimately finds stifling and unsatisfying. Throughout the film, she acts as a self-conscious narrator, diegetically confessing her errors and her missteps to her friend Carlo and extra-diegetically, to us, the spectators, who experience her marriage and its dissolution through flashback and voice-over narration. This reliable guide through the narrative is a more mature, wiser version of Francesca.
While those “born in March” are said to be variable in nature, and Francesca is described by Antonio Maraldi as “spoiled, a liar, capricious, windy, and unstable,” the core conflict of the film itself centers not around Francesca's character, but around Francesca's youth and inexperience, exacerbated, of course, by her innate characteristics.