:: “Swept Away By An Unusual Destiny In The Blue Sea Of August”: Lina Wertmüller, 1974 - Guy Ritchie's Swept Away 2001
By Laura Meucci

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Obviously, this film, like all Wertmüller’s films, is a sad portrayal of Italian society and culture – specifically of human nature. Her tone is caustic, unforgiving, and above all unapologetic. This love story is doomed from the beginning. The only ending that would be truly realistic is the break-up, with the two characters returning to their stations once the romance is over. After all, it is was created two decades before divorce became a common occurrence for royalty as well as ordinary people ( as Melato represents Italian ‘royalty’).

Ritchie misses many nuances of the original film, mostly because of the language barrier and specificity of the socio-historical-political-ethnic references of Wertmüller’s script. Thereby, when Madonna and Ritchie state in Daly’s interview they “did not think that Melato underwent a transformation in the original film,” again we are in the presence of a linguistic and conceptual misunderstanding. Ritchie changes the ending of his remake by shifting the responsibility of the final betrayal to a third party: Madonna’s tycoon husband manipulates the situation to keep his trophy-wife for himself, as Madonna, unlike Melato, is ready to follow Giannini, Jr., the love of her life.

In Wertmüller’s original, Melato undergoes a tremendous transformation, still terribly aware of the complete and utter rejection she would suffer if she were to abandon her life of privilege for her Sicilian mate. Her love is true and profound, and her ‘transformation’ does not lie in the fact that Melato is not willing to give everything up for Giannini, Sr. Rather, unlike Madonna in Ritchie’s version, she is able to finally see Giannini as a human being, instead of a racially inferior being. In fact, she overcomes her prejudices – a pretty radical transformation, given the deep-rootedness of Italian racial segregation.

Wertmüller’s true love is for fairy tales, not reality. Discrimination and social injustices are complex issues which cannot be overcome by love alone. Melato has been touched by true love and she will never be the same again – she has experienced the pain of sacrifice. Much like Audrey Hepburn’s character in the 1950’s film “Roman Holiday,” Melato must give up the love of her life – it belongs to the illusions of fantasy.

As a member of the Italian audience, it would be ideal to fantasize of the rich and privileged Melato evolving from a superficial brat into an enlightened woman who will never look upon Southerner minorities as she had in the past – irreversibly changed by this experience, love has widened her horizons and made her a complete human being! But, let’s face it – we live in the American material world and ultimately, she is the material girl.


Robert L. Chapman, PhD Abridged 2nd Edition of the Dictionary of American Slang. © Harper Collins, 1998.

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