Directed by Gabriele Salvatores. Starring Diego Abatantuono, Claudio Bigagli, Giuseppe Cederna, Claudio Bisio, Vasco Mirandolo. (1991, R, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., May 1, 1992
This year's Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film is not for everyone. It's not for me. It's based on a true story about a small troop of Italian soldiers abandoned on a Greek island while World War II rages on around them and without them. The soldiers shed or lose the material symbols of their past lives, their uniforms, their guns and their radio and discover – are you ready? – that there are more important things in life. Oh, there are some holdouts – the career soldier who has trouble getting used to life without military discipline or the chronic deserter desperate to get home to his expectant wife – and there are hardships – there's two, maybe three, sexually available women on the island – but, in general, the men adjust to this latest cinematic utopia. (As an aside, I'd like to speculate here for a minute: is the fact that there are only a few women but they are willing to share their favors a plus or a minus for these men? It seems they may find this form of camaraderie preferable to domestic bliss or romantic love. Doesn't much matter, this is a relatively minor plot point.) The women are thrown in just to alleviate any nagging questions one might have about the desirability of a paradise without sex. But that's about as specific as this vision gets. And that explains this film's popularity. Who is going to disagree that life should be simpler or that war is bad? Mediterraneo is a pleasant movie, though it would be more pleasant if the main characters had a little more depth. Especially annoying after a while is Abatantuono as the reluctant sergeant who expresses his confusion at a life without discipline by yelling all the time. Mediterraneo is beautiful, it's pleasant, but truly, it's not much more than a classy Gilligan's Island.