23 January 2010

Jealousy and Insecurity - Malena

I was talking to a friend the other day about the film, Malena.

I love this movie. Malena is the story of a beautiful woman living in a village in Sicily. It is WWII and her husband is away at war. She lives alone in a remote house outside the village. At night, she abandons herself to her fantasies and longings, dancing and dreaming in privacy...well, not so private since her young admirers are often lurking in the darkness stealing glances at her in a nightgown.
During the day she walks quietly to the village where she is ritually subjected to blatant gawking by youths and aged alike, lewd remarks and the cruel gossip of both spiteful jealous women and lustful, yet self-preserving, men. Malena is so judged and hated because of her beauty that village people project onto her all sorts of fabrications about her character and morality.

Halfway through the film, as a side effect of war, Malena becomes destitute. No one will help her except a lustful judge who will only help her at...a price. Things become worse for Malena. She has no food, is hungry and becomes desperate to do anything for food. Soon after, she becomes a prostitute, not only to survive, but as a self-fulfilling prophecy following the way she is seen and regarded by the people in the village.

The scene where Malena publicly emerges into her role as prostitute is one of my favourites. Where once she walked gracefully with her head lowered, in this scene, she pounds the ground with her heels strutting her wasp silhouette and sits provocatively right in the middle of the city square where ironically, the men have been gossiping about her questionable morality for years. Malena sits there among the men that she previously avoided and never frequented. The once shy Malena, in a gesture of worldly sophistication, takes out a cigarette and raises it to her bright red lips...And what do you think happens? Well, the hypocritical men all reach out with their lighter.

It is a disturbing scene for me. It speaks volume about some men's behaviour. I feel so much sympathy for Malena.

Following this, Malena entertains German soldiers much to the rage of the village women. While they go on suffering in the last months of the war, Malena, who has been pushed into becoming the very vain, self-interested woman they judged her to be, is sleeping with Germans, is well clothed, well fed and is able to survive. But the war ends and those who are embittered by it will soon seek revenge...

And so it happens that the women of the village, fueled by their long standing jealousy for Malena, drag her out savagely into the city square. There, they furiously stab, stone, punch, shave and beat her under the silent, watchful eye of the men. In this scene, the indignance that these self-righteous, shrieking women supposedly feel towards a traitor is but a sham. It is a pretext for their jealousy and their deep-seated need to destroy someone they have always seen as a threat.

They do destroy her. When they are done with her, she wails like a broken animal, glaring her sad, reproachful eyes at everyone around her. In her tears she finally expresses years of resentment and hurt so that the entire market square stands in stone, shocked by her outburst.
I'll leave it at that but that's the gist of the film.

What Malena means to me and why some insecure people are pathetic
I think insecure people can act mean a lot. From what I've learnt or observed, they will strategically say certain things to devalue what you have whenever it threatens them. By dismissing you, it allows them to feel better about themselves. What else...if they happen to value popularity, then they slander you to ruin your relationship/reputation with others.
They also, like in Malena, will apply all sorts of moral judgments on you to justify their ill feelings towards you, ill feelings which in the first place result from their jealousy and not from some deep-seated moral belief as they like to tell themselves and others.

What I don't like about these people is that if you were to confront them about their behaviour, they would be in denial. So you can't get them to admit their insecurities, you can't help them change or grow. They are stuck unless they learn to make themselves feel good intrinsically and develop some confidence without trashing that of others. And since in the meantime, they are stuck, you end up stuck with their negativity. And no one should have to put up with that.

Another thought...you want to soar, learn more or try something daring but insecure people will want to keep you in your designated little box so that they can avoid feeling threatened by your potential success.

Or else...they will resent you for trying what they dared not and wish you to fail so that it justifies their own decision to Not-try.

Really life is too short for this kind of thinking.


kippa said...

totally agreed! i somehow could feel this reality you had portrayed to be outright cruelty! Malena could've been a true story of some poor soul somewhere in the world and these heartless women who could judge another woman!pathetic!

Mujda Mansouri said...

I find your review valuable because it really touches on the major themes of the film and how individuals can limit themselves and others with their negative judgments. I love that your message was articulated with a lot of passion too. Thank you for sharing.