Sog.: Alessandro De Stefani. Scen.: Augusto Genina. F.: Giovanni Tomatis. Int.: Maria Jacobini (Maria d’Alconte), Alfonso Cassini (professor d’Alconte), Vittorio Rossi Pianelli (avvocato Valnera), Lido Manetti (l’amante), Vasco Creti (Mario di Rocca), Oreste Bilancia, Giulio Andreotti. Prod.: Itala Film. DCP. D.: 60’. Col.
Before becoming UCI’s leading director, Augusta Genina worked for several studios based in Turin, including Itala Film for whom he made seven films such as Addio giovinezza!, La maschera e il volto and Lo scaldino. For a long time impossible to see, L’onestà del peccato stages a story based around violent contrasts which makes good use of actors. From the enclosed atmosphere of high society emerges the character played by an intense Jacobini. In the role of daughter, wife, lover and mother she plays a woman courageous to the point of becoming an instrument of death. The lawyer Valnera, a novelist and director of a newspaper, is the unscrupulous man caught up in shady affairs who marries Maria, the daughter of the rich Professor d’Alconte, for personal gain. Valnera betrays her but she hides his despicable character from both her father and society at large and takes comfort in the company of a ship’s lieutenant, Mario di Rocca. They fall in love but agree to interrupt their impossible relationship. After confronting Valnera, the professor falls ill and dies and Maria takes refuge in the lieutenant’s arms – only for him to receive orders to set sail immediately. Maria happily carries the fruit of that single secret encounter in her womb, but the lieutenant’s ship sinks. Maria is soon completely absorbed by the duties of motherhood, while her husband risks prison for the increasingly desperate measures he takes. Faced with the possibility that her son might be ruined by his association with the name Valnera, Maria finally refuses to help her husband and tries to push him towards an extreme act.
In a world in danger of crumbling under the weight of entrepreneurial greed and arrogant intellectualism, it is the apparently fragile figure of Maria that undoubtedly constitutes the film’s fulcrum. It is thanks to her that order and justice are restored, at a price of excruciating sacrifice, inconsolable grief and unavoidable crimes. But there is more. Maria treads a difficult path that ultimately leads her to a full awareness and the full expression of her own femininity. Her character can thus be justifiably included amongst the galleries of portraits of a lady, often complex to the point of illegibility, which are characteristic of Genina’s cinema as a whole.
Restored in 2017 by Cineteca di Bologna and Museo del Cinema, Torino at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory from a first generation tinted nitrate positive print with Italian intertitles preserved in Bologna, coupled with a fragment of the original camera negative preserved at the Cinémathèque française and the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé.