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That Terrible Thing Called Jealousy

Love and possession during the Italian economic miracle.

Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, 1960. Still from La Dolce Vita (Pathé, 1960). Directed by Federico Fellini. Produced by Giuseppe Amato and Angelo Rizzoli. Cinematography by Otello Martelli. Photo © John Kobal Foundation/Getty.

The setting is Italy, soon after the end of the Second World War. Three sisters are about to marry and, in order to assure themselves of their future husbands’ love, they ask the men what they would do if the sisters were to betray them. Two of the sisters receive answers involving murder and separation, while the youngest, Maria, is simply told by her fiancé Gianni that he is certain she would never stray. Convinced that jealousy was the true proof of love, Maria is unsatisfied with this response. So, once married, she sets about trying to provoke Gianni’s jealousy. It is only when Maria finds a gun, which she assumes is to be used against her if she betrays Gianni, that she is satisfied. ‘And that night the wife dreamed happy dreams.’ Gianni, it turns out, intends nothing of the sort and eventually convinces Maria of how ridiculous her notions are. The couple go on to live happily and peacefully together.

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