Italy, 1951, 110 minutes, Black and white.
Silvana Mangano, Raf Vallone, Vittorio Gassman.
Directed by Alberto Lattuada.
Anna was an Italian box office hit of the early '50s. It raised some eyebrows as well as Vatican ire in its time. It was a star vehicle for the new glamour queen Silvana Mangano who had appeared, with some success and notoriety, in Bitter Rice.
It was the period when popular stars were eager to portray priests and nuns. The contrived plot has Silvana acting as a demure hospital nun; then, in flashback, a shady nightclub singer. Her song, composed by Nino Rota, later to work for celebrated Italian directors, especially Fellini and Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet), is still well known and gets plenty of airplay on radio. Her leading men Raf Vallone and Vittorio Gassman also appeared in Bitter Rice.
Silvana Mangano was to marry producer Dino de Laurentiis and was to become an excellent serious actress in such Visconti films as Death in Venice, Conversation Piece. She appeared in Dune, produced by her husband's company by one of her daughters.
The film's plot is virtually nonsense, an excuse for a glamorous star to appear on screen as a nun. In the atmosphere of the times, it is perhaps understandable that she remains in the convent. The screenplay, however, gives no indication that she has any religious vocation. Direction is by Alberto Lattuada who made Bitter Rice and the screenplay was a collaboration of five authors amongst whom Dino Risi, later to direct many excellent Italian comedies, and Franco Brusato (To Forget Venice, Bread and Chocolate).
1. Popular entertainment? The blend of glamour and religion? The background of the shady criminal world in Italy of the '50s? Hospitals and nursing orders? A satisfying blend ? for the box office? Credible?
2. The work of the Italian film industry in the early '50s: black and white photography, locations, atmosphere? Silvana Mangano and her star status? The blend of piety with the nightclub world? Nino Rota's musical score and the ever-popular 'Anna' theme?
3. The title and the focus on Anna herself? Encountering her as a nun? Her work, its efficiency, relationship with the other nuns? Her wanting to take final vows? The encounter with the Superior and her refusal? Anna and her being indispensable? The encounter with Andrea, the bond between the two, her recognition of him, the occasion for the flashbacks? The change of style with the buxom glamorous Anna working in the nightclub, her encounter with Walter, the infatuation, the meeting with Andrea and trying to break off with Walter? Leaving the nightclub, working on the farm, the family, Walter following, the fight with Andrea and his death, her being wounded? Hospital? Her decision to remain in the hospital? The credibility of her decision to become a nun? The dilemma for her choices - vows or leaving with Andrea? Her freedom to choose? His wish to marry her? The screenplay's motivation in getting her to stay? A vocation or not? The quality of Silvana Mangano's drawing such a complex, soap operatic character?
4. Andrea and his hospitalisation, meeting Anna as a nun, the memories of the past, her love for him, the clash with Walter, going to live with the family, the farm, the fight and her being wounded? The possibility of her marrying Andrea?
5. Walter and his place in the club, style, handsome, no good? Breaking off? His following her, the fight with Andrea, death?
6. The portrait of the nuns, especially the Superior, dignity, the running of the hospital, her wisdom in understanding Anna?
7. The detail of hospital life, hard work, attending the patients, religious support, the medical skills of the hospital, operations? The perennial interest of audiences in things medical for soap operas?
8. The treatment of religion in Italy with its Catholic traditions? Exploitive? Sensationalised for the times? The changes in Catholicism and in Italian Catholicism during the '60s? The plot and its treatment seeming very dated after the Second Vatican Council?