Malèna (Giuseppe Tornatore – 2000)

The key ingredients of this film include: Academy award winner director Giuseppe Tornatore; international debut of bombshell Monica Belluci; coming of age story of a young boy in a small Sicilian village during World War II; and the timeless music of Maestro Ennio Morricone.

Yes, the film may look like an attempt to repurpose Tornatore’s success of 1989 Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, some may even say forgetaboutit it’s all about MONICA! But I think the movie is simply about two opposite perceptions about the different. In this case, the differentiating element is beauty. These positive or negative perceptions are usually shaped by the beholder’s potential of winning versus the fear of losing.

I’ll explain. Here the positive perception is dressed up as a sweet fantasy. Throughout the film young Renato sexually fantasizes about Malèna, but never gets to exchange even a minimal dialog with her. Yes, the possibility of a 13 years old boy still wearing his short pants (childhood label) having an affair with a woman in her 30’s in this context – is literally nonexistent.

Put simply, the potential of winning is meager, but in Renato’s mind it could easily happen. So he’s left conjuring up more elaborate fantasies about making it happen with Malèna from afar.


The negative perception is held by the women of the small village who are threatened by Malèna’s beauty. They’re obviously driven by the fear of losing their husbands to Malèna’s enchanting spell. Only after Malèna’s husband brings her back home – minimizing the threat – Malèna gains back her respect as old order is fully reinstated.

This interplay between opposite perceptions got me thinking. We’re pretty much all experiencing this in our everyday lives. Our reward system is programmed to see good opportunities as potential wins and unpleasant ones – as potential loses.

You have an upcoming hot date, interview for a dream job, meeting with a potential big client, even buying a lotto ticket. The days before the actual event, are what I call the sweet pre-feeling time where you’re pretty much walking on air. Sometimes that big event gets delayed a bit – so you even get an extra dose of pre-feeling bliss. Hey I might get that cushy job, Hey You Never Know the lotto slogan intoxicates us. The opportunity is yours if you play it right. In short, it’s fantasy time before the opportunity is gnawed by reality fangs.

Now compare that with your feelings about your dentist appointment next Tuesday…

By Shlomi Ron

Visual marketing guy with a penchant for fine Italian cinema.

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