As every cinephile knows, Naples has given Italian cinema many great stories and exceptional performers. In particular, the works of the great playwright Eduardo De Filippo served as the basis for many important films in which theatrical language meets the rhythm of film editing. Among the best examples of this interpenetration we can certainly include Saturday Sunday Monday, a TV film made in 1990 by Lina Wertmüller and starring a magnificent Sophia Loren. The film crosses some of the most iconic places in the cities of Pozzuoli and Naples, creating a large choral fresco supervised by the attentive eye of the Mother Goddess, repeatedly evoked by the character played by Luciano De Crescenzo. Why not enjoy some good film tourism during your visit to Pozzuoli? Follow the steps of the film with us and discover many curiosities about a gem of Italian cinema.
The Solfatara, bradyseism and the Mother Goddess
“Near Mount Vesuvius and near the boiling solfataras, in the ancient city of Pozzuoli, since time immemorial the earth slowly moves up and down, so much so that the people who live there have become used to it”. With this voice-over line Saturday Sunday Monday begins, as if it were the beginning of an ancient fairy tale. Pozzuoli is immediately presented to us through one of the particularities that made it famous all over the world, the phenomenon of bradyseism. We make the acquaintance of Professor Luigi Iannello, played by the late Luciano De Crescenzo: he is an extrovert geologist, convinced that the terrain of Pozzuoli dances at the behest of the Mother Goddess, lady and mistress of the depths of the Earth. Our first meeting with Professor Iannello shows him in the suggestive setting of Pozzuoli’s Solfatara while he is intent on explaining to a skeptical fascist official that if Mussolini’s statue has tilted it is precisely because “the Mother Goddess sta nu poc tuccat e nierv (is a little nervous) and decided to throw the male off the horse.”
Rione Terra, where the Priore family lives
We learn that Professor Ianniello often identifies the Mother Goddess with various women of his acquaintance, including his neighbour, Mrs. Rosa Priore. This is how we see our protagonist, played by Sophia Loren, enter the scene for the first time: a proud matron fully committed to the sacred duty of preparing her ragù for the Sunday lunch. After a funny scene in which Donna Rosa animatedly discusses the recipe for the ideal ragù with other fierce women at the butcher shop, our protagonist returns to her home overlooking the sea in the Rione Terra neighbourhood in Pozzuoli. Thus we meet her large and noisy family, ready to gather for Sunday lunch: her grown children, aunt Memè (the great Pupella Maggio, for whom De Filippo originally wrote the role of Donna Rosa Priore) and above all her husband Don Peppino Priore, tormented by jealousy towards his beautiful wife whom he sees too close to Professor Iannello.
A carriage ride through the streets of Naples
Don Peppino’s concerns about his relationship with his wife are also reflected in his conversations with the other characters. Peppino feels distant also from his son Rocco, who is instead very close to his grandfather who considers him far better than his father Peppino and much more skilled in business than he is. To unleash Peppino’s wrath against his father-in-law Don Antonio will be a carriage ride in which we will see some of the most characteristic places of Naples in the background: starting from the Rettifilo (as Corso Umberto I is commonly called) we see the carriage passing in front of the imposing Maschio Angioino, of the San Carlo Theatre and of the magnificent Royal Palace of Naples located in Piazza del Plebiscito. These symbols of Naples accompany Don Antonio’s chatter about hats and the elegant shop that his grandson opened in via Calabritto, giving way to a bitter bickering with Don Peppino.
The Temple of Serapis, a silent witness
During Sunday lunch, the tensions between the spouses will explode in a violent scene that will risk irreparably damaging the family ménage, in the same way in which an earthquake caused by bradyseism cracks the walls of the house immediately after the dispute. In fact, Don Peppino’s jealousy takes over and, after a riot of unfounded accusations, Donna Rosa faints at the end of a passionate monologue. After such an explosion, all that remains is only the darkness and silence of a bad day that ends: Professor Iannello, saddened by the incident, will take a night walk in the center of Pozzuoli admiring the ruins of the Temple of Serapis and silently interrogating a statue of the Mother Goddess.
Monday: the melting of all conflicts and the triumph of love
The third act takes place on Monday, and it sees the resolution of the conjugal conflict thanks to the intervention of the daughter Giulianella: it is she, in fact, who discovers the real reason for the mother’s resentment towards Don Peppino, and to communicate it to the latter. Donna Rosa’s reasons may seem futile at first glance: her resentment towards her husband derives in fact from the exaggerated compliments made by the latter to the maccheroni alla siciliana (Sicilian macaroni) cooked by her daughter-in-law. However, behind this seemingly silly pretext, there is much more: the frustration of Rosa in finding that she has never received similar compliments from her husband, her displeasure for the way in which he has completely delegated to her the care of the house and children without ever having an explicit word of gratitude for her.
Thanks to Giulianella’s intervention, the spouses will be able to talk to each other frankly, and they will discover that the fears that tormented them were not to be attributed to the end of their love, but rather to be interpreted as definitive proof of how much they cared about each other.
One last curiosity about Saturday Sunday Monday
The United Kingdom also paid tribute to Eduardo De Filippo’s ability to create great stories and unforgettable characters. It is in fact possible to find a TV film made in 1978 (12 years earlier than the Italian version directed by Lina Wertmüller!) and also called Saturday Sunday Monday, which sees among its protagonists nothing less than the golden pair of British theatre composed by Dame Joan Plowright (starring as the protagonist Donna Rosa) and the great Laurence Olivier (who here plays Don Antonio).