Lina Wertmüller adapts a traditional novel to create the edgy romantic drama “Ninfa Plebea” [Eng. Title: The Nymph]. Set in an impoverished Neapolitan village in wartime Italy, this Cinderella tale of a young girl finding love and advancing her social status is also one of Wertmüller’s more crowd-pleasing efforts.
Pretty Miluzza is blossoming into adulthood, and begins to attract attention from everyone in the village – male and female, young and old. A good chunk of the film is devoted to the random groping of her by all and sundry, which she will put up with an air of innocence – she is after all still a child inside her fast changing body. Meanwhile her carefree mother Nunziata takes on lovers right from under her husband’s nose – he doesn’t particularly approve of the goings on, but still puts up with it out of love – and she loves him back for that. The granddad is philosophical, and everyone is happy, until family members die one after the other, leaving Miluzza an orphan. Thankfully, just as the predators close in on Miluzza, so does the war, and along with it comes her knight in khakis – a wounded young Italian soldier evading advancing Germans. Miluzza nurses Pietro (played by a dashingly handsome Raoul Bova) back to health, and the rest, you can guess…
The story may be straightforward, but Wertmüller, as ever, doesn’t give us an easy ride as she taunts us (the males especially) by showing her protagonist as sexually desirable and available even though she’s still a child in many respects. Some scenes, like Miluzza tending to the local priest’s privately located sores, his implied arousal, and the girl’s reaction, are borderline, and would have raised consternation were it not for a female director filming it. Having said that, these are only implied – not illustrated, and the priest’s reaction mercifully doesn’t overstep his oath. Performance-wise, while Stefania Sandrelli gives a fine account of her character as the sexually wanton but caring mother, and débutante Lucia Cara competently portrays the adolescent Miluzza, the rest of the cast are unidimensional, relying too much on dialogues to carry their character. It doesn’t necessarily bring the production down – but fails to make it any more memorable. This may not be a Wertmüller classic, but it is nevertheless marginally entertaining..!
The Nudity: Lucia Cara and Stefania Sandrelli
The film contains a few scenes of nudity from Lucia Cara who plays the teenage protagonist Miluzza, and brief nudity from Stefania Sandrelli who plays mother Nunziata.