MARIA FALL FOR GRACE
“Nights of Cabiria” opens with a couple running across a field. It’s a bright sunny day. They laugh, hold hands, and embrace. But any notion of romance plunges when the man pushes the woman into the river. She submerges, then dragged out of the waters by the local men and boys. She remains unconscious and her heroes triy to revive her by … dangling her upside-down. She amazingly awakens, only to walk off the scene ungrateful. She was close to death and yet she exasperatedly calls out for a boyfriend long gone with her money.
At first, I thought this was some coy Italian movie, playfully subverting our expectations. It turns out, as I’d like to see it, the scene is a cunning way to introduce its temperamental and unassuming female protagonist. She is Maria “Cabiria” Ceccarelli and the woman is difficult to warm up to. She can be defensive, acting out against the world for being duped by a lover. Granted she’s in a tough position, but she hardly earns any sympathy or empathy.