Sog.: Sergio Amidei. Scen.: Franco Brusati, Luciano Emmer, Giulio Macchi, Cesare Zavattini. F.: Domenico Scala, Leonida Barboni, Ubaldo Marelli. M.: Jolanda Benvenuti. Mus.: Roman Vlad. Int.: Anna Baldini (Marcella), Vera Carmi (Adriana), Emilio Cigoli (Alberto Mantovani), Andrea Compagnoni (Meloni), Anna Di Leo (Iolanda), Franco Interlenghi (Enrico), Marcello Mastroianni (Ercole Nardi), Mario Vitale (Renato), Massimo Serato (Roberto). Prod.: Sergio Amidei per Colonna Film. 35mm. D.: 80’. Bn.
Following a series of short films and art documentaries made with Enrico Gras between 1938 to 1948, Domenica d’agosto marked Emmer’s first foray into the features that would dominate his prolific output during the 1950s.
By 1949, at a time when the Italian neorealist movement was still very popular overseas, screenwriter Sergio Amidei managed to raise the finances to produce and co-write a feature that Emmer would direct. The simple, loose premise of the film is contained in the title itself – a Sunday in August. Emmer envisioned neither an omnibus film of different episodes nor a documentary, but, as he said, “a dramatic story of that particular day and those people whose lives suddenly became entangled by fate or coincidence”. He said he wanted the film to be “as sincere and unpretentious as possible” and for it to begin with “a minimal scenario which was later enriched as the work progressed by the inclusion of facts or characters that gradually presented themselves”. The screenplay was completed in just two weeks with contributions from Franco Brusati, Giulio Macchi, and the great Cesare Zavattini.
Domenica d’agosto is a marvelous film interweaving five stories of characters fleeing Rome on a sweltering summer Sunday to seek refuge at the beach at Ostia – a girl with her family, a traffic policeman and his girlfriend, a boy and his friends, a young man and his ex-girlfriend, a widower and his young daughter. While the film is undoubtedly a precursor to the popular commedia all’italiana, its aesthetic remains firmly within neorealism and documentary. The film was shot entirely on location, and there was an extensive casting process of non-professional or little-known actors to keep the narrative focus squarely on the lives of ordinary people. However, the film has often been termed as ‘pink neorealism’, a short-lived sub-genre in which Italian films offered a lighter tone more in keeping with the improving conditions of the country. The cast includes Mario Vitale, Ingrid Bergman’s husband in Stromboli;Franco Interlenghi from Sciuscià; Massimo Serato, who was briefly married to Anna Magnani; Emilio Cigoli from The Children Are Waiting Us; and an early appearance by Marcello Mastroianni, still not far along enough in his career to have the right to his own voice – he was dubbed by Alberto Sordi.
Alexander Payne and Neil McGlone
It was a great pleasure to handle the French adaptation of Domenica d’agosto, together with Robert Scipion. Not only because of the friendship that I shared with Emmer and Amidei, but also because I consider it one of the best films made in Italy after the war.
Conceived and produced in the great humanist and populist tradition that made many famous Italian films so successful, it possesses an attention to detail and a talent for observation that are not at all common in this type of film. […] The most important element for which we should praise the authors, however, is the tonal precision and the quality of acting displayed by virtually all the characters. When you consider that all of the interest and enjoyment in the film derives from subtle shades in the language, gestures and accents of numerous characters with different social or education backgrounds, then such a final result can only be considered a masterpiece.
Marcello Pagliero, “Recontres Cinématographiques”, March 1950