Sog.: Luigi Malerba, Antonio Marchi, Luciana Momigliano. Scen.: Attilio Bertolucci, Marco Ferreri, Luigi Malerba, Antonio Marchi. F.: Gianni Di Venanzo. M.: Eraldo Da Roma. Mus.: Teo Usuelli. Int.: Marcella Mariani (Margherita), Sandro Somaré (cantastorie), Marco Ferreri (castellano), Gaia Servadio (Violetta), Manuela Dell’Orta (Rosa), Giuseppina Vicari (Gertrude), Bruno Blankesteiner (Ivan), Joseph Reichsigel (comandante). Prod.: Luciana Momigliano, Marco Ferreri per Società Italiana Cinematografica (S.I.C.). DCP. Bn.
Donne e soldati was an example of a ‘decentralised’ production, far from Rome, something that for the most part Italian cinema didn’t fully succeed in achieving until the 1990s. It can be seen as the final practical output of the critical and theoretical work of the Parma cinephiles who gravitated around the magazine “La Critica Cinematografica”, starting with its directors Antonio Marchi and Luigi Malerba and co-writer Attilio Bertolucci. In many ways the film, which is both Picaresque and anti-heroic, was too far ahead of its time, and it is often considered the precursor to Monicelli’s L’armata brancaleone. This time out, Ferreri takes the reins as producer of the ill-fated undertaking (the two directors will never make another film); however, Donne e soldati, apart from marking Ferreri’s estrangement from Italian cinema for a number of years, today appears to display earthy and carnivalesque elements that will subsequently influence certain aspects of the Milanese director’s vision.
Our film won’t be to the liking of generals. If a handful of soldiers are ordered to capture a position (in this case, Torrechiara Castle, besieged by troops from the North during one of the many invasions over the centuries) and after having failed in their initial attempts, instead of fighting to the death they begin to whistle under the walls to attract the attention of the women trapped inside, then it’s obvious the canons of military heroism aren’t being respected. The scandal in the story is that at a certain point our besiegers, having grown tired of waging war, end up becoming stuck and little by little the terrible warriors become peaceful farmers and marry into the families of the besieged… A few centuries ago, a small army of Landsknechts found themselves stuck in a remote mountain village [Rimagna, in the Emilian Apennines] and integrated with the local peasants and woodcutters. The idea for the film came from this event, as it is a context that is still relevant today: through the historical adventure of the soldiers of Rimagna, which has grotesque and paradoxical aspects to it, we have attempted summarise some important contemporary issues, given that the idea of a human brotherhood, or at least a European one, has become an ever more pressing and concrete political concern.
Luigi Malerba, Antonio Marchi, Non piacerà ai generali, “Cinema Nuovo”, n. 39, 15 July 1954