Swept Away


Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Swept Away
"It isn't a bad film - it just doesn't amount to much."

Re-reading my notes after watching this, I came across an entry that said, in block capitals, WHAT IS THE POINT??? Having had time to reflect on things and watch a few scenes over again, I'm still not sure. Are we supposed to laugh at this, or cry? Be offended or provoked? It isn't a bad film - it just doesn't amount to much.

It's a love story, of sorts, and it begins on a yacht in the Med. Rich bitch Raffaella (Mariangela Melato), her husband and their well-to-do friends are doing what rich people do on yachts - eating, sleeping, swimming, lazing around in the midday sun. They bicker, mostly about politics, and when they're done ribbing each other they sharpen their claws on the hired help. Raffaella takes a particular dislike to the hapless Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini), ridiculing him because he's a Southerner and a Communist. She complains about the food and orders him to change his shirt because, she says, none too diplomatically, he smells.

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So far, not so bad. Raffaella orders Gennarino to take her out on the speedboat. He says it's too late, but she insists, so off they go. Once they're out of sight, the speedboat's engine dies. The acid-tongued socialite and the downtrodden deckhand are alone, stranded at sea.

It's a clever set-up, with the warring couple forced to confront each other and deal with their prejudices. Sparks should fly, but what we get is nothing more than a tit-for-tat slanging match. She loathes him because he's a pleb. He despises her because she's not. Cue a steady stream of playground insults and class-war mumbo-jumbo. "A woman," announces Gennarino, "is an object of pleasure for the working man." Someone, somewhere, might find great profundity in a statement like that. I thought it was gibberish.

The hostility continues when they're washed up on an island, but not for long. Raffaella, without her money and hangers on, is a toothless imitation of the monster who terrorised the deckhands. Gennarino, free from the yacht's strict social hierarchy, revels in his newfound freedom and quickly begins to assert his authority. He finds food and shelter and refuses to share them with Raffaella.

Remember, though, that this is a love story, so what happens next is that our two protagonists fall for each other. This doesn't just strain credibility, it takes it by the scruff of the neck and throttles it to death. We're supposed to accept that Raffaella has been transformed overnight from a feisty firebrand into a simpering doormat, willing to give up everything for Gennarino.

And how does Gennarino bring about this remarkable turnaround? He beats her and rapes her and barks orders at her. Not only does Raffaella not resist, she seems to encourage his increasingly violent behaviour. Plot-wise, it's unconvincing, and morally it's questionable - treat her bad, give her a good hiding every time she steps out of line and everything will work out fine in the end.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2005
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Swept Away packshot
A rich socialite and a working-class deckhand are thrown together on a Mediterranean island.
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Director: Lina Wertmuller

Writer: Lina Wertmuller

Starring: Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Riccardo Salvino, Aldo Puglisi

Year: 1974

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy


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