T. alt.: Une fille nomée Madeleine. Sog.: dalla pièce Servant of God di Madeleine Masson de Belavalle. Scen.: Augusto Genina, Carlo Alianello, Alessandro De Stefani, Giorgio Prosperi, Pierre Bost. F.: Claude Renoir. M.: Giancarlo Cappelli. Scgf.: Ottavio Scotti, Franco Fontana. Mus.: Antonio Veretti. Int.: Marta Toren (Maddalena), Gino Cervi (don Vincenzo), Charles Vanel (Giovanni), Folco Lulli (Domenico), Jacques Sernas (Giovanni ‘Sospiro’), Valentine Tessier (Geltrude), Isa Querio (Luisa), Patrizia De Filippi (figlioletta di Maddalena). Prod.: Giuseppe Bordogni per Titanus. 35mm. D.: 103’. Col.
Genina’s most important melodrama is Maddalena, a film marking both the Marian year and Titanus’ fiftieth anniversary. The production was followed by journalists as if it were a special event: the ageing Genina invaded the Sannio region with his troupe, shot for a month and a half mixing professional actors with local residents. The final result was a success, although not the triumph that the producers had expected. The film was originally conceived by De Laurentiis for Silvana Mangano, and then for Eleonora Rossi Drago. In the end Marta Toren took over the role of Maddalena, the prostitute employed by a local libertine to play a joke on the beloved parish priest (Gino Cervi) and play the part of the Virgin Mary in the Easter procession. Her past is marked by the death of her child, burned to death in a fire started by candles during the baptism. Meanwhile, a young man from the town ignorant of her true identity (Sernas) falls in love with her and when a gravely ill child is apparently cured following her intervention, the townsfolk begin to believe that she is a true saint.
However, when, under the influence of Folco Lulli, they discover that their saint is literally a whore, the villagers stone her during the procession, and she dies dressed as the Madonna while clasping a religious icon. It is clear, then, that the film tackles the division of female characters typical of the era head-on with a disconcerting, almost didactic force and with astonishingly violent and erotic overtones. “One of the purest and most essential films ever made about sex, religion and femininity” wrote Enrico Ghezzi, with “a miracle filmed in a manner half-way between that of Rossellini and Hitchcock”.
Emiliano Morreale, Così piangevano, Donzelli, Roma 2011