The context of rape in Spaghettis


(lordradish) #1

Ok, here’s a question I’ve had on my mind for a while… every now and then, there’ll be a rape of a woman in a spaghetti western, and I’m taken aback at how it’s usually handled. Let me give a few examples:

-in Cemetary without Crosses, Manuel, who seems to be a pretty decent guy, lets the thugs rape the kidnapped daughter, and thinks nothing of it.

  • in Face to Face, Volonte’s character rapes a woman, and in the next scene, she’s pretty much in love with him

  • in Sonny and Jed, more or less the same thing happens

I’m sure there’s others, and we even see something similar in Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. He got into some trouble for making some rather casual comments about it, making the rape seem trivial, as well.

Is this a cultural thing? Is there something different in an old-world European perspective that I’m unaware of (no, I’m not saying Europeans tolerate rape - let me be clear). This idea of a woman falling in love with her rapist is just not normal, and something you’d almost NEVER see in an American film, even today.

Thoughts?


(alk0) #2

I thought he looked like he was in pain because of what he enabled to do. But on the other hand he let it happen because he wanted to let Maria have her revenge.


(Dorado) #3

He was definitely in pain, later on he also protected her from Ben’s brother’s because he felt she had suffered enough.


(lordradish) #4

I’m not sure I agree with you on that. Hossein has that pained look on his face throughout the whole movie. But in a larger context, don’ t you think there’ something a bit disturbing about the examples I mentioned?


(scherpschutter) #5

I think it is indeed a cultural thing, Lodradish, related to the worship of the ‘mother figure’ in christianity, especially catholicism, so it’s no wonder it’s a recurring element in a typically catholic genre like the SW is.

Italy, a catholic country par excellence, is a matriarchate, la mamma is worshipped above all, she is, so to speak, the incarnation of mother Mary; and she was an immaculate virgin, impregnated by devine intervention (Holy Ghost), not by a man
The other Mary, Mary Magdalen, is often described as a ‘fallen woman’, the harlot, yet she was - according to some gnostic gospels - closer to Christ than the apostles.
Often the two images melt together, especially when an innocent, virginic women is taken by forse and falls in love with, becomes the closest follower of the man who deflowered her. The deflowering of the virgin/woman, also symbolizes is in this vision a first step to the most worshipped status she can reach: that of the mother/mamma.

This idea is very strong in a film I watched last weekend (and am reviewing actually) 10.000 dollari per un Massacro, in which Claudio Camaso kidnaps a young girl and deflowers her; when she is freed from her rapist, she runs back to him.

The idea is present in The Hunting Party, but you could argue that the film was influenced by the SW
I remember also a film with David Jansen, Macho Callahan, in which a woman kidnapped and raped by him, eventyually falls in love with him


(lordradish) #6

That’s right… I forgot about the one in 10000 dollari.

I’ve heard that dichotomy before about the virgin/whore thing. In fact, I think Leone even mentioned something along those lines in the Frayling biography. You’ve just explained it quite, well, actually. Thank you.


(Romaine Fielding) #7

I think you guys are probably right, Manuel probably feels her pain but I also sense a profound indifference. Like he felt that there was nothing to be done. Or that he could/should do.
This is one of my all-time favorite Spaghettis.
I thought that they handled the rape better here than most. Very little is shown. It is highly effective to just hear the scream and see how the victim’s terror and pain register on Maria’s face instead.
I don’t like cat-and-mouse rape scenes where the dude(s) play with the victim before hurting her (like in the beginning of I Want Him Dead).
I, generally, don’t like the violence against women in these films but in these films EVERYBODY gets a bit of a beating or worse. In that context, the rapes can be tolerated and understodd.


(lordradish) #8

Understood? Sure. I can’t agree with tolerated. I have a pretty strong stomach for things and they always put me off. But when looked at in the context of what scherpschutter explained, it is at least understandable in a cultural context.


(Romaine Fielding) #9

[quote=“scherpschutter, post:5, topic:946”]I think it is indeed a cultural thing, Lodradish, related to the worship of the ‘mother figure’ in christianity, especially catholicism, so it’s no wonder it’s a recurring element in a typically catholic genre like the SW is.

Italy, a catholic country par excellence, is a matriarchate, la mamma is worshipped above all, she is, so to speak, the incarnation of mother Mary; and she was an immaculate virgin, impregnated by devine intervention (Holy Ghost), not by a man
The other Mary, Mary Magdalen, is often described as a ‘fallen woman’, the harlot, yet she was - according to some gnostic gospels - closer to Christ than the apostles.
Often the two images melt together, especially when an innocent, virginic women is taken by forse and falls in love with, becomes the closest follower of the man who deflowered her. The deflowering of the virgin/woman, also symbolizes is in this vision a first step to the most worshipped status she can reach: that of the mother/mamma.

This idea is very strong in a film I watched last weekend (and am reviewing actually) 10.000 dollari per un Massacro, in which Claudio Camaso kidnaps a young girl and deflowers her; when she is freed from her rapist, she runs back to him.

The idea is present in The Hunting Party, but you could argue that the film was influenced by the SW
I remember also a film with David Jansen, Macho Callahan, in which a woman kidnapped and raped by him, eventyually falls in love with him[/quote]

Scherpschutter,
This is not necessarily about rape but it points to the virgin/whore aspect of women in Spaghettis:
Have you ever seen Cjamango? I’m thinking specifically about the end
SPOILER
At the end Cjamango leaves the town with the weirdest “holy family” I’ve ever seen in a Spaghetti. Helene Chanel, the “heroine” has been killed and thrown over a horse. Cjamango leaves at the conclusion with her dead body and the (living) little kid (seen annoyingly throughout the movie) riding together out of town. A “happy” family. Joseph, May & Jesus.
Maybe Cjamango is a necropheliac.


(Romaine Fielding) #10

If you can’t “tolerate” this type of violence against women in these films then it is hard to get around that. I did not mean tolerated in any “real” sense. This is the one aspect of Spaghettis I find offensive and the virgin/whore complex is maybe exaggerated in a predominately Catholic country like Italy but it is omnipresent in our popular culture too.
I don’t know what you think I meant by tolerated. I did not mean condoned. I guess I meant that the rapes can be seen as just another aspect of the violence in Spaghettis. Hell, they kill children and Priests too. This is no discrimination mayhem here.


(lordradish) #11

Oh, no, please don’t misunderstand my ‘tolerated’ comment. I guess I should have clarified. Heck, i’ve seen much worse in terms of violence towards women, I merely brought this whole thing up becuse it was an unusual perspective that was new to me. I meant no offense. :slight_smile:


(Romaine Fielding) #12

I took no offense at all.
Sometimes it is hard to hear the intended tone of a post.
I’ve thought myself of posting on the same topic you created here.
It truly is the only distasteful aspect of spaghettis to me.
I agree there are far worse examples of women being treated badly but in Spaghettis it is systematic.
I saw a thread earlier in which posters bemoaned the fact that their girlfriends (mostly) don’t like Spaghettis. Well, there are not too many female charaters for a woman to relate to in these movies. Who wants to identify with a marginalized, terrorized victim? Or, for that matter, with the men who do the marginalizing and terrorizing?
I enjoy the way spaghettis take the ingredients of American Westerns and and then mold them into something different. Taking the rape scenes is accepting the bad with the good, I guess.


(Silvanito) #13

Isn’t it typical Italian genre cinema of the 60s and 70s to have lots of sleaze and violent sensations, including women falling in love with rapists?

I didn’t know it was a Catholic thing :smiley:


(scherpschutter) #14

I haven’t seen Cjamango yet, but I’m not surprised by the ending you describe

I think this religious symbolism is okay as a narrative devise; even this virgin/harlot thing is okay to me, but I prefer a more restrained approach.

In 10.000 dollari, the deflowering annex rape of the girl is not shown, and I prefer it that way
If you understand the symbolism, the point is made, and if you don’t, well then you still now what happened, I suppose

Narrative devises, symbols etc. do not refer directly to the outside (‘real’) world, they’re more auto-referential, refering to the world of art and/or ideas. Still, it would be a bit foolish to pretend that there is absolutely no relationship with this outside/real world (although I know some French philosophers like Derrida have defended that point of view), and let’s not forget that rape is not a very pleasent experience for a woman (I dare say that, even though I’m a man). If it’s made all too explicite, then I agree with Romaine that it’s the only aspect of spaghettis that is distasteful to me.


(ENNIOO) #15

As rape towards women moved to other genres (Italian crime films) while the Spaghetti was fading, was there an element of supply and demand in this?


(Phil H) #16

I think it was also (to a certain extent) a sign of the times. As the censorship on sexual content was relaxing I can’t help but think that film makers used it as an excuse to get some tits on show and insert some sexual content for purely titilation reasons. I will bow to Scherps’ superior knowledge on the catholic roots angle, he knows far more about this topic than I do, but you can’t escape the fact that this kind of cavalier attitude towards rape was also present in U.S westerns of the time.

Waterhole #3 is a perfect example of that. James Coburn rapes Margaret Blyes character at the beginning of this film and it is considered all good fun which she fundamentally enjoyed. I find this one of the most distasteful examples of such stuff ever personally. But Clint Eastwood also rapes someone near the beginning of High Plains Drifter as I recall, and he remains the hero of the piece throughout; albeit in an avenging angel capacity.

Thankfully we don’t see too much of this stuff anymore.


(Bad Lieutenant) #17

The first movie that springs to my mind when it comes to this subject matter is God’s Gun, in which Palance’s character discovers he has a son; the product of rape. If I remember correctly there is even more rape, or at least assault, in the film.
Sure, the inclusion of rape might be a cultural thing, but I think it’s also an example of de-glorifying the old west, and emphasizing the vile nature of the bad guys. Furthermore it’s the objectifying of women, which in this way is done to the extreme. Even though it’s not done a lot in American westerns, women in those films are also of little significance; functioning as ‘wallpaper’.
Whether one can stomach it is all subjective of coure. Personally I can stomach anything shown in a movie, for the simple fact that it’s shown in a work of fiction. People get shot in westerns too. That I prefer to see naturally, instead of rape, but in real life I’d pass on that too. Then there’s the way that it’s done in the film. Tarantino managed to shoot an entertaining rape scene (Pulp Fiction), Noe shot a boring and exploitative one (Irreversible) and in God’s Gun it fits the cheesefest tone of the film. All in all the question of whether you tolerate rape in a movie is -in my opinion- dependent on how it’s done and its functionality and is totally different from the question whther you condone it in real life (which luckily virtually noone does).


(Phil H) #18

This is an important point, I think.
For example, Cemetery Without Crosses was discussed earlier. Now, for me, Hossein’s character is genuinely troubled by what he allows to happen to the girl in this film. And, moreover, it is shown as a tragic event with tragic circumstances for all involved. Hossein’s complicitness in the girl’s violation leads to his own demise and is not trvialised at any point. It is also handled tastefully, and I think more effectively, by happening off screen; with only the girls screams to convey the assault.


(scherpschutter) #19

Don’t misunderstand me, I didn’t mean to say that this catholic roots angle was the only explanation for the phenomenon; there were of course other forces at work: macho behaviour, cavalier attitute towards rape, objectifying women, deglorifying the old west etc.

Furthermore rape and most other kinds of violence used towards women was used for shock reasons
So when Ennioo asks if it was a matter of supply and demand, since these things were transported to other genres, the answer most probably is yes. The Italian crime movies were made in the same cultural context and the characters of those movies showed exactly that behaviour Phil and BL have described. But if you want to reach the same shock level after a while, you have to come up with something stronger, more explicite. In horror movies things finally got out of hand.

Haven’t seen Waterhole #3, but it’s odd that I didn’t think of High Plains Drifter yesterday, certainly a very tasteless scene

It maybe true that we don’t see too much of this stuff anymore in the movies (I’m not absolutely sure), but the macho/cavalier behaviour is omnipresent in rap-music, that is often critisized for these things


(Sieglinde) #20

Well, in some SWs the rapist is a very handsome man… ;D so the girls fall in love with them.
I wouldn’t, but if the rapist would be Camaso, Milian, or Volonté, he wouldn’t need to rape me. :stuck_out_tongue: :-[ ;D

The other girl type is who dies like the girls in FAFDM and Tepepa. ??? They are so silly…

The best is Jill, who only needs hot water. :smiley: