It’s 1941 and the war is far from over when a group of ragtag Italian soldiers are sent to a Greek Island to protect it for Mussolini. When they arrive on the island, in a scene reminiscent of the first Twilight Zone episode, Where Is Everybody, the odd mix of mountain peasants, donkey driver, war veteran and artist are surprised to find that the island is unpopulated. For days they wander about, wondering what happened to the people, when a freak accident disables their radio and removes them from any contact with the outside world. It’s then that they stumble upon the villagers – a group of unassuming folks who have had all their young men sent away to fight the war and aren’t so much scared of the Italians as happy that they’re not the Germans.What follows is a light-hearted little story of how everyone’s the same deep down, the futility of war and the silliness of borders. Filmed in Italian and featuring English subtitles, Mediterraneo is actually a very funny little flick, and though it was produced in 1991, you honestly wouldn’t know it by watching the thing. Director Gabriele Salvatores has put together a tale that engages you with humor, keeps you interested through characters, and leaves you with a message, and that’s a rare thing in any modern day feature film.
Actors Diego Abatanuono, Caludio Biagli, Giuseppi Cederna and Claudio Bisio star, to name a few, and you’d be hard pressed to find fault with any of them. While some of the supporting characters look less comfortable in front of the camera than others, this really isn’t the kind of film where you care. Consider it as an Italian Waking Ned Divine – mostly harmless, sometimes funny, and in the end a little heartfelt.
The film won the 1992 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and while it’s far from the sort of movie you’d expect to pick up that award, the win is testimony to the fact that this is a tough movie to dislike.As for me? Loved it.