L’ape regina is a woman who, with unwavering sweetness, kills her husband, a consenting victim, by inducing him to make love; for her, enjoying sex with her husband is not the purpose of marriage, procreation is. So when finally pregnant, she no longer needs her husband, who dies from consumption. I wrote the story with Parise, but then I lost track of him, and the film was held up for eight months by the censorship board because of a shot of a long nightgown with a hole in it, around which was embroidered the maxim, “I don’t do it for my pleasure but to please God”. The family was a cornerstone of Italian society, and at that time, I’m talking about 1962-63, divorce was not even remotely talked about, there was only the Roman Rota. For Marina Vlady in L’ape regina, the family is only a means for fulfilling her conception of woman, motherhood, which is what she was raised for within a very clear function of family power. The man, however, is not a victim; he is jointly responsible for the whole relationship right from the very beginning.
Marco Ferreri, L’avventurosa storia del cinema italiano. 1960-1969,
edited by Franca Faldini and Goffredo Fofi, Feltrinelli, Milan 1981
Before shooting, the screenplay of L’ape regina was submitted for approval to the Production Department of Directorate General for Cinema, which, on September 7th 1962, issued a cautious, but generally positive, verdict. This did not stop the Review Commission from banning the film on January 14th 1963 on the grounds that it was “certainly contrary to good morals”. A few days earlier, moreover, two anonymous individuals had denounced the author and publisher of a book containing the screenplay and essays on the film, Matrimonio in bianco e nero – L’ape regina, edited by Carucci as part of the series “Cinema 60”, for blasphemy and the book was consequently seized on January 11th. On January 23rd, Sancro Film appealed against the verdict, but the Second Review Commission confirmed the ban, despite the fact that one of its members, producer Goffredo Lombardo, had resigned in protest.
On February 16th, the trial against Ferreri and the publisher Beniamino Carucci began. The deputy prosecutor, Pasquale Pedote (who had previously persecuted Pasolini’s La ricotta), requested a sentence of two months in prison and an 80,000-Lira fine for having offended common dignity. One week later, Sancro Film submitted to the censorship board a second version of the film with ten cuts (totalling about five minutes) and seven modifications to the dialogue to soften its more salacious allusions. Among the cuts were: the two sarcastic opening scenes in which Alfonso receives a visit from his father, Mariano, who pushes him to get married, and Alfonso’s meeting with Regina in the convent cloisters; several scenes depicting physical relations between the couple; and two wonderful blackly comic extracts from the sequence depicting the removal of Alfonso’s mother’s corpse. Finally, Ferreri was forced to include an initial epigraph exalting the “solid and immutable principles of morality and religion”.
After being subjected to these (and other) modifications, the film received a censorship visa on the March 28th 1963. On November 12th 1963, Ferreri and Carucci were absolved by the fourth section of the court because “the action did not constitute a crime” but were obliged to pay a 15,000-Lira penalty for “publishing something contrary to public decency”.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: Rafael Azcona, Marco Ferreri dall’atto unico La moglie a cavallo di Goffredo Parise. Scen.: Rafael Azcona, Marco Ferreri, Diego Fabbri, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa. F.: Ennio Guarnieri. M.: Lionello Massobrio. Scgf.: Massimiliano Capriccioli. Mus.: Teo Usuelli. Int.: Ugo Tognazzi (Alfonso), Marina Vlady (Regina), Walter Giller (padre Mariano), Linda Sini (la madre superiora), Riccardo Fellini (Riccardo), Achille Majeroni (zia Mafalda), Vera Ragazzi (zia Jolanda), Pietro Tattanelli (zio don Giuseppe), Melissa Drake (Maria Costanza), Ferdinand Guillaume (frate Lorenzo). Prod.: Henryk Chroscicki, Alfonso Sansone per Sancro Film, Cocinor, Films Marceau. DCP. D.: 93’. Bn.
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