14 May 2009 - 11:54 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM


Mega-hot Italian superstar Monica Bellucci was in Australia shooting The Matrix Reloaded, and took time out of her busy schedule to talk to FILMINK\'s Erin Free about her lead role in Giuseppe Tornatore's moving coming-of-age drama Malena.

“When I wanted to do movies, I was dreaming about actresses like Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida, Anna Magnani or Claudia Cardinale, and for me Malena has the same kind of femininity,” says a relaxed and casual Monica Bellucci, draped over a couch in Sydney's Quay Grand Hotel in slacks and a very revealing white blouse. With her extraordinary beauty and intense, siren-like screen presence, the model-turned-actress walks the same trail blazed by these legendary Italian icons, and set screens alight with her head turning performance in Malena. Her role as a young widow whose beauty and sense of mystery puts the rumour mill into overdrive in her small Sicilian village is the one that has really made her name. Roles in French films (L\'Appartement, Dobermann), American films (she was discovered by Francis Ford Coppola for Dracula) and smaller Italian films have given her a solid resume, but it's Malena that\'s made her a star.

“Malena is an artistic film, and a small film, but it's very important for me,” says Bellucci in her charming French/Italian accent. “Firstly, it's an Italian film, and I'm Italian, so it's my own identity in some way. And women like Malena don't exist anymore. To understand Malena, we really have to understand the Sicilian mentality at the time. Women's place in society was only as a mother or as a wife. So women only existed through men... through men's desire actually. That's why all the women hate her, and resent her, because she provokes men's desire just by being there, just by walking down the street. I can relate to Malena a little bit, because I come from a very small place in Italy, and I know what it's like to be somewhere where everybody knows everybody. But I'm totally different too, because I'm from today...”

The character of Malena also offers other similarities for Bellucci. Enigmatic and lusted after, Malena is like a movie star – nobody knows her, but the whole town creates an image for her out of rumour and half-truths. It's also a film about people's responses to beauty – something Monica Bellucci must be all too familiar with. “I think this film is not just a portrait of beauty, or of a Sicilian village during the forties,” Bellucci explains. “It\'s a portrait of envy, and how envy can destroy all the relationships between human beings. In this case, it's because of beauty, but it could be anything else. The film becomes like a metaphor in many ways. And to be beautiful is like evidence; it's objective. You don't need to prove beauty; it's just there. That's why people sometimes feel aggressive about beauty. Sometimes you can go into a restaurant, and women can be very aggressive to you just because you are beautiful. Their men look at you, and even if they look another way, you know that they're aware of you. Beauty provokes different reactions. This is what the film is about, but it could be anything. It's envy, and it's human nature.”

The core relationship in Malena is that between the young widow and the boy who becomes obsessed with her from afar. Divided for much of the film, and hardly speaking a word to each other, their on-set relationship, however, was much different. “Oh, no, no. It was so important to be together, to work together. The young boy was so scared, and he had to kiss me, and do so many things for just a young boy, and we had a lot of complicity together. He had to be totally free with me, because if we didn't have that complicity, there would be problems.”