Delitto D'Amore AKA 'Crime of Love' - 1974 - Luigi Comencini
This is a very good Italian film from the 1970's about two factory co-workers who fall in love. He is a northerner and she is a southerner so you know from the start that they don't match well. He, Nullo - marxist, pragmatic, middle working class; She Carmela - religious, cautious and working lower class. Both live with large families. His rather eccentric and lazy, her's fiery and superstitious.
On the surface the film deals with conflicts that derive in their relationship from region, class, working conditions and social conditions. He wants to marry her right away but she knows her family - headed by a violent brother - won't like the idea so they hide their love.
This is a well observed love story first and foremost. For that reason, it's important that one not know how the story ends or what happens along the way. I saw the movie cold only knowing that it was a 1970's film from Italy that dealt with working class issues. That's all one should know. If you haven't heard of it or seen it I highly recommend you look for the Raro video* edition. And stop reading here because spoilers will now be revealed.
The plot develops slowly and about three-fourths the way through shifts gears significantly to the point that you realize it is almost a message picture. Fortunately, Comencini - who wrote and directed the film - keeps the message fairly subtle instead continuing to focus on the two characters rather than hitting us over the head over the fate that befalls Carmela. Because of this the ending is much more effective and authentic.
Anyone watching closely will realize that the first scene and the last scene are the same. However, since the characters are not yet developed, it's tough to know exactly what that first scene is telling us. Like a Franceso Rosi film there is a murder at the beginning - but unlike a Rosi film this one presents us with events so quickly the film doesn't feel like a flashback or predetermined as it plays itself out.
The two leads are well cast.
Giuliano Gemma has a strength and confidence but remains fair and intelligent while Stefania Sandrelli fits the role well as a young woman who is both guarded and aggressive as she tries to nudge against the familial and religions obligations she thinks is expected of her.
The film reminded me a bit of Antononi's Red Desert in that the polluted industrial environment plays a role not only as scenery but driving the plot. The difference being that the fears become more real for he characters who, in this case, are working class.
* Don't read the synopsis on the Raro page. Gives away too much.