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- Sebastiaan Coops -

Franca Viola (1948) is an Italian woman who was raped by her ex when she was 17 years old and forced to marry him as a result. At the time, it was very common for women in Italy to marry their rapists in order to save their honour - and it is a practice that is still common in various parts of the world today. Indeed, the social convention in Italy at the time required women to enter marriage "intact". But things turned out differently for Franca, as she refused. Franca and her family were then soon excluded and treated as outcasts. Their lands and barn were burnt down and they were harassed in an increasingly violent manner.

Franca started a lawsuit, which was unheard of at the time. The lawsuit caused a stir in Italy because Franca was the first woman to refuse the so-called 'reparative marriage' (matrimonio riparatore). She also went on to win the case. Her rapist received an 11-year prison sentence. Following her vindication, she received wedding gifts from both the president and the pope at the wedding she did want. The law was also changed in response to public opinion on the trial.

All in all, an important story that has now been turned into a movie by director Marta Savina under the title La Ragazza del Futuro. Claudia Gusmano plays the role of Franca Viola, renamed Lia Crimi in the film. The story is set on the beautiful island of Sicily. Yet the landscape seems suffocating, as you have to face mountains everywhere. The church is also omnipresent. You become part of Lia's world and see how she makes choices and always has to weigh up what others would think of them. But the story is never drawn out or too fast-paced. Cinematically, it is very strong and you are captivated by being able to put yourself in Lia's shoes. This is because the story is told entirely from her perspective. You see the world as she sees it. When she is unsure about her choices, the audience is well taken with her.

A nice addition to the historical story is the inclusion of two characters who give Lia advice. One is a prostitute and the other, her lawyer, is the former mayor who is gay. This puts them, like Lia, outside social convention, which feels like a relief. Only they seem to understand and actively support her. In doing so, the film addresses the emancipation movement in a broad sense. And it also provides a nice contrast to the jargon of the trial itself. For it is full of misogynistic statements. Lia is asked, for example, whether she doesn't feel very bad that the man's honour has been compromised by filing a lawsuit. Or that she actually secretly liked it when she was kidnapped. Lia puts the men in their place well during her long-awaited testimony at the end of the film.

It is full with disbelief that you're watching this movie. Especially with the knowledge that the law that stated that rape is only a matter of public morality was only changed in 1996. La Ragazza del Futuro is a beautiful and captivating film that you won't soon forget.

La Ragazza del Futuro is in cinemas now.


Image: Virginia Valsecchi (2023) La Ragazza Del Futuro.


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