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The Italian Film Bread and Tulips: Review Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 14th, 2021

This Italian film Bread and Tulips is meant to be a reflection of life after 40. While the film may be considered a story of self discovery, it is also in many ways about the role of women in society and struggles they face in their roles as individuals, as mothers and as women.

The story follows the life of Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta), a forty year old woman married to a bathroom fixture salesman Mimmo play by Antonio Catania. In the beginning of the film Rosalba is content with her life, with her family and her place in her home. This all changes when on her yearly vacation with her family she is left behind at a bus stop by her husband and two boys who have forgotten all about her.

At first she decides to hitchhike home, on the way however, she seizes upon an opportunity to go to Venice, a city she has never been to but always wanted to go. Soon the vacation she plans on going for a few days turns into a life changing experience. She meets a waiter by the name of Fernando Girasoli (Bruno Ganz), it is here that her friendship with him blossoms and eventually grows into something which she never expected.

Rosalba finds herself more and more enthralled by the place she inhabits. He film eventually broaches the subject of her family, her husband and her place in the world. It does so in a comedic manner and eventually reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Crafting this tale would require a highly engaging and involved director and Silvio Soldini fits the role to a tee. Rather than providing a film which runs at a brisk pace, the director allows the story to play out. Rather than asking for emotive performances from his actors, the director capture more subtle nuances on film which again reflect life. In the beginning he uses uncomfortably tight close ups which shows the close ended nature of Rosalba’s life. When the scene changes to Venice however, the shots become wider and even scenes of a personal nature play out far more naturally. The lighting sets the mood further by contrasting the damp and dark shots of Rosalba’s home life with the brighter scenes which take place in Venice. The director provides certain shots showing the beauty of Venice, but the majority of the film is spent in the narrow alleyways and on the back streets of Venice which exude their own charm and personality which fits in perfectly with the film. Though the direction is to be commended it is also the one fatal flaw of the film as it exposes the inherent bias within the story towards the main character. This bias can be found in the fact that the main character, Rosalba, is constantly shown to be a fragile individual who makes her decisions based her surroundings and very rarely chooses to think for herself.

Despite this, if we analyze the film; it still speaks volume regarding the importance of living. It discusses issues such as the changing role of women in this world and their need for independence as well as how men in some ways still curtail this freedom. The story emphasizes this not by demonizing any of the characters, but by emphasizing the fallibility of human nature.

When discussing the social psychological aspects of a woman’s role in society today, it does so by providing different perspectives through the main character. At the beginning of the film Rosalba is perceived to perhaps more of a traditional stay at home wife. Much of her life has been a product of social ideologies rather than her own desires. Even when she is left behind at her vacation her first instinct is to go home so that she may have time for herself.

Decades ago when family values were idealized in society women would not conceive of leaving their homes and their husbands behind despite their conditions. Social norms simply would not allow such women to pursue their lives. They would in turn be trapped within their duty to their husbands. This understanding also applies to Rosalba who exercises loyalty only because she is not aware of the vastness of life.

Even when Rosalba reaches Venice and is enthralled by its beauty, she still tries to catch a train back to her husband and family out of a sense of duty. It is only when she gains employment and a residence, along with meaningful relationships with Garcia and Fernando that she realizes her need to be independent and take charge of her life. This is reflective of modern society where female independence is personified by the working women, especially the working mother. The attitudes towards such ways of thinking were taboo decades earlier. An example can be found in the fact that the husband does not feel the emotional absence of the wife as much as he feels the material loss. However, the pursuit of equal rights for women in countries around the world has brought a fundamental socio cultural change where women are no longer consider themselves incomplete without men. In the film it can be seen as a current reflection of society that despite this progress, familial obligation still holds a psychological monopoly on women. Despite the fact the Rosalba finds herself in a place where she wished to be all along, she still goes back to her husband due to a sense of duty to her family. It is only when she receives a reminder of her life in Venice that she goes back.

The film also chronicles the psychological struggle Rosalba goes through between what she truly wants and her obligation to her family in the form of dreams. In the beginning of the film she sees a dream where her friend offers her a taste of fruit while she is constantly inquiring about her son. This reflects the guilt she feels over leaving her family and her first taste of freedom. The two other dreams within the tale are similar in nature as they show emphasize Rosalba’s guilt over abandoning her family for her own needs.

The wilting tulips at the end of the movie signify the Rosalba’s effect on Fernando’s life. It symbolizes his attempts to recollect the happiness he is steadily losing now that he has lost her.

Known for works such as These People Are Us: Stories, The Half-Mammals of Dixie, Why Dogs Chase Cars: Tales of a Beleaguered Boyhood, Novel, Drowning in Gruel, Work Shirts For Madmen, acclaimed short story writer and teacher at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, George O. Singleton says that Bread and Tulips is all about relationships and what defines them. He says that even the title emphasizes the story as the basics need for survival is bread for sustenance and tulips to uplift the human spirit, while the mind is what creates relationships, lets them grow and sustains them (Singleton). Renowned movie critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and a man known for having written well over a thousand reviews, Mick LaSalle says that this film is not centered on “social issues or sexual politics just life” (LaSalle). Mick LaSalle is also known for his book, Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood and it merits regard when he also speaks of the evolution of Rosalba from a housewife to an independent woman. American journalist and The New York Times film critic, Anthony O. Scott relays that the film provides a contrast between Rosalba’s sterile life in Italy and the warmth she experiences in Venice, however, this warmth is contingent upon materialistic needs (Scott). Among the critics only A.O Scott understands that the film is in many ways a commentary on the old more imaginative Italy and new charming and bohemia Venice. Mick Lasalle merely perceives that the film is a commentary on life itself and the pursuit of happiness. While I agree with Mr. Scott’s contention regarding the perception of the timeline of the film, I do not agree with his contention that the films message of happiness is built upon the concept of materialism. The film is quite frankly centered upon the needs of a woman in society and the fulfillment of their potential. Like many other authors, I consider the movie to bear a close resemblance to a fairy tale. However, there is no doubt in the fact that the movie does an excellent job of establishing its own world. Though as written above, the film is tailored so that the audience with emphasize with Rosalba’s situation. I wholeheartedly agree on Mr. Singleton’s contention that the film is built and bases itself on relationships. He believes in the timelessness of the film and his comments echo the statements given above, that the film is very much art imitating life, it is built on the relationships within.

Despite any flaws it may have “Bread and Tulips” is a lovely undertaking which provides brilliantly romantic and heartwarming entertainment. The story does not feel contrived, the characters and the actors playing them all exude realism and the comedic aspects though quirky are perfectly placed in a progressive manner in deference to other films. It is a truly a film everyone should watch.

Works Cited

Bread And Tulips (Pane E Tulipani). Dir. Silvio Soldini. Perf. Licia Maglietta and Bruno Ganz. 2000.

Gillies, Jamie. Bread and Tulips. 2008. Web.

LaSalle, Mick. . 2001.

Scott, A. O. Bread and Tulips (2000) . 2001.

Singleton, George O. Bread and Tulips. 2000. Web.

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