Special Day, A (1977): Ettore Scola’s Historical Tale of Bond between Unhappy Italian Housewife and Unhappy Homosexual Neighbor, Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni (LGBTQ, Gay)

Ettore Scola directed A Special Day (Italian: Una giornata particolare), a sensitive emotional drama about the emerging bond between two outsiders during the fascist regime, starring Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni.

Grade: B+ (***1/2* out of *****)

A Special Day
Una giornata particolare).jpg

Film poster

Set in Rome in 1938, its narrative follows an ordinary woman (Loren) and her homosexual neighbor (Mastroianni), who stay home the day Hitler visits Benito Mussolini.

Ettore Scola directed A Special Day (Italian: Una giornata particolare), a sensitive emotional drama about the emerging bond between two outsiders during the fascist regime, starring Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni.

Themes addressed in the film include gender roles, fascism, and the persecution of homosexuals under the regime of Mussolini, who famously declared: “A man is not a man, if he is not husband, father, or soldier.”

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).

The movie was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Cesar Awards and the Oscars (two nominations). in 1978.

Highly acclaimed, A Special Day is featured on the list of the 100 Italian films to be saved.

On May 4, 1938, the day Hitler visits Mussolini in Rome, Antonietta, a naïvely sentimental and overworked homemaker, stays home doing her usual domestic tasks, while her fascist husband, Emanuele, and their six spoiled children take to the streets to join the patriotic parade.

The building is empty, except for the caretaker and a neighbor across the complex, Gabriele, a charming, anxious man. A radio broadcaster, he has been dismissed from his job and is about to be deported to Sardinia because of his homosexuality and alleged anti-fascist stance.

The Pretext:

After the family’s myna flies outside Gabriele’s window, Antonietta shows up at his door, asking to be let in to reach the bird. Gabriele has been interrupted from attempting suicide, but he helps rescue the myna by offering it food.

Surprised by his gentle demeanor, Antoinetta, unaware of his sexual orientation, feels liberated, flirting and dancing the rumba with him.

Despite their differences, the couple warm up to each other. The caretaker warns Antonietta that Gabriele is an anti-fascist, which Antonietta finds despicable.

Gabriele eventually opens up, confessing he was fired because he is a homosexual. Antonietta confides in him her troubles with her arrogant and unfaithful husband, who favors other, n educated women.

Throughout their interaction and conversation, each realize that the other is oppressed by social pressures and governmental conditioning, which motivate/force them to form a new impression than the one they first drew from one another.

As a result, they have sex, albeit for different reasons. Gabriele explains that this changes nothing, as does Antonietta. However, later, when her son reminds his mother of all the newspaper clippings she will have from the parade for her album collection, Antonietta’s face reveals a look of slight indifference.

Soon after their intimate encounter, Antonietta’s family returns and Gabriele is arrested.

At the end, Antonietta sits near the window and starts reading a book–The Three Musketeers–that Gabriele has given her. She watches as her lover leaves the complex, escorted by fascist policemen, before turning off the light and retiring to bed. Meanwhile, her husband is waiting there for her in order to beget their seventh child, whom he wants to name Adolfo.

The film deals with gender roles and the model of masculinity under fascist Italy. Antonietta is the donna madre, a mother figure who meets her feminine responsibilities in the regime by having six children, boasting one more will secure her the government bonus established for large families in 1933.

The Fascist regime equates homosexuality with depopulation, and thus, Gabriele is suspected of treason. The bachelor tax of 1926 was a measure against this, and Gabriele has to pay it While the stay-at-home mother and homosexual neighbor would seem to be an improbable pairing, both are minimized by the regime, and find comfort and some sympathy in each other.

At the end of the film, domestic life seems to continue as usual, though the “inner resistance” to Fascism has been awakened.

Sophia Loren – Antonietta
Marcello Mastroianni – Gabriele
John Vernon – Emanuele, Antonietta’s husband
Françoise Berd – Caretaker (Pauletta)
Patrizia Basso – Romana
Tiziano De Persio – Arnaldo
Maurizio Di Paolantonio – Fabio
Antonio Garibaldi – Littorio
Vittorio Guerrieri – Umberto
Alessandra Mussolini – Maria Luisa
Nicole Magny – Officer’s Daughter


Directed by Ettore Scola
Written by Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola, Maurizio Costanzo
Produced by Carlo Ponti
Cinematography Pasqualino De Santis
Edited by Raimondo Crociani
Music by Armando Trovajoli

Production companies: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion
Canafox Films

Distributed by Gold Film

Release dates: May 17, 1977 (Cannes Fest); August 12, 1977 (Italy)

Running time: 106 minutes