Marazzi’s 2007 documentary opens on a typical 1960s housewife gazing into a crystal ball to see her future, only to reel in shock at a sexually liberated, naked woman dancing in a field (a clip which we too will see later in the film). Constructed thus, of animations of old clips and photos from 1960s-70s media spliced together with a modern voice-over, the film then investigates a history of women’s rights in Italy. With a vaguely chronological order, the documentary investigates the progression of feminisms through subtly linked themes, beginning with marriage, birth, sexual education and church oppression. The film reaches 1968, and the themes converge in intimate descriptions from diary entries (read by the women who wrote them), pushing for and responding to equal working rights, divorce, abortion, contraception and sexual liberation. The film concludes with a list of laws which have affected gender rights in the period covered by the film until the present day.
In the early 1960s, Pietro Germi’s Divorzio all’italiana/Divorce: Italian Style (1961) painted a bleak picture of women’s rights in Italy at the time. Marcello Mastroianni’s character Fefé plots to frame his wife for adultery and then murder her: divorce was illegal, and ‘crimes of honour’ by cuckolded men were given greatly reduced prison sentences. Alina Marazzi’s documentary, Vogliamo anche le rose – the title a nod to the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike – picks up where Germi left off, and with a similarly scathing portrayal of conservative, patriarchal laws. And yet the film reveals much more, tracing the emergence of feminism within an oppressive society.
The beauty of the film lies precisely in its very intimate nature. The diaries of Anita, Teresa and Valentina each depict vividly not only the society in which they live, but, through the intelligent and well paced editing of the film, the different levels of interaction of each woman with that society. Valentina, for instance, not only illustrates the life of a militant feminist, but moreover describes the consequent difficulties in finding love; the diary of Anita delicately details a shy teenager who is intimidated by overtly sexualized images, but also condemns her oppressive Catholic education for her inhibitions. While the diary entries signal various themes, which also overlap vaguely with chronological progressions in women’s rights through the 1960s and ’70s, Marazzi includes more than the subjective narrations. Clips from a variety of contemporary television programmes and films show the audience a wider perspective on the issues, and allowing women and men of all backgrounds to offer their opinion gives the film a claim to objectivity. The documentary nonetheless has a very explicit political intention, and the awful, misogynistic arguments are satisfyingly dated and small (perhaps the lyrics of the feminist punk band at the end best summarize this feeling, ‘Horror! Horror! You make me sick! I feel awful when I’m near you’).
Vogliamo anche le rose, as implied by the above lyrics, has a darkly humorous undercurrent running throughout, emerging at times from the dramatic irony implicit in our modern viewpoint, at others from the simple ridiculing of misogyny through editing, animation and the non-diegetic soundtrack. And yet this humour coincides with some very poignant scenes – such as Teresa’s candid narration of her brutal abortion. The overlay of emotional scenes designed to manipulate and associate the spectator with the film’s central issue is a process familiar in several contemporary documentaries to Vogliamo anche le rose. Films such as Quando c’era Silvio (Beppe Cremagnani and Enrico Deaglio, 2005), Camicie verdi: bruciare il tricolore (Claudio Lazzaro, 2006), Improvvisamente l’inverno scorso/Suddenly, Last Winter (Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi, 2007) and Nazirock (Claudio Lazzaro, 2008) similarly engage with events in twentieth century Italian history, presenting a serious issue in an almost tragicomic manner and highlighting the ongoing and topical relevance of the issue at hand. Nowhere is this more evident in Marazzi’s film than in the final few minutes: rather than simply including the legal advancements which promote gender equality, the list also includes a number of attempts to retract antecedent laws. The final item, marking only the beginning of debates on rights for de facto couples – debates since then halted by the Berlusconi government – demonstrates that this fundamental issue remains powerfully present.