Toth Database - Cinema

Bitter Rice



Year: 1949 

Duration: 108 min

Color: B/N 

Genre: Dramatic

Director: Giuseppe De Santis

Producer: Dino De Laurentis

Photograph: Otello Martelli

Editing by Gabriele Varriate

Music: Goffredo Petrassi

Set design: Carlo Egidi




Performers and characters



Silvana Mangano : Silvana Meliga

Doris Dowling : Francesca

Vittorio Gasman : Walter Granata

Raf Vallone : Sergeant Mar co Galli

Carlo Mazzarella : Mascheroni

Nico Beppe : Beppe

Maria Grazia France :Gabriella

Anna Maestri : Irene

Dedicate Refreshments: Anna

Ermanno Randi: Paolo

Lia Corelli : Amelia

Adriana Sivieri : Celeste

Mariemma Bardi : Gianna

Maria Capuzzo : Giulia

Attilio Dottesio :Bruno

Isabella Zennaro : Juliana

Manlio Mannozzi : Alessandro

Antonio Nediani :Nanni

Mariano Englen :capomoda

Emilio Cigoli; announcer on the radio at the station




May 1948. At turin train station, while in training in trains of the monda rice, the seasonal workers who leave for Vercelli from all over Italy during the season of transplantation and fashion in rice paddy, two plainclothes policemen are waiting. They have to arrest Walter Granata, a convicted man who manages to escape capture.


Pursued by the agents, Walter meets a girl named Francesca on the track, forcing her to hide on the train of the worlds. He improvises a dance with another girl who waiting for the train put dance music on the turntable, then has to flee again because the cops are at his heels.


Francesca gets on the train and is approached by the girl of the turntable, who presents himself as Silvana Meliga, from Ferrara. She is a veteran of the monda season, which is spent with a corporal, so that Francesca can be started at work as a illegal, even without a contract of employment.


Upon their arrival at the destination farmhouse, the women are housed in the comrades left free of conscripts. Among them Sergeant Marco Galli is impressed by Silvana; between the two women, however, it is not the beautiful Ferrarese who suffers its charm, but Francesca. Since he saw her with Walter at the train station, Silvana keeps an eye on her and realizes that she is hiding something; taking advantage of her absence for a moment, she escapes an involt from under the blanket of Francesca's straw.


Already from the first day frictions arise with the master, who does not want problems with the Chamber of Labor and decides to send home the illegals without a contract. Francesca cannot afford to leave, however, she has to recover what Silvana has stolen from her; convinces other irregulars to resist as well. 


According to The Corporal, women can try to be hired by proving to work harder and faster than regulars, for this reason a competition between two teams of worlds is unleashed in rice paddy, with Francesca and hers ahead.


Silvana worried, blows on the fire and points to the irregulars as raw that damage the work of the regulars under contract. In rice paddy begins a furious struggle between the women, Francesca has to run away, chased.


Sergeant Marco, who passes on the road with the soldiers, manages to make the women reason and calm tempers; the workers realize that they are all driven by the same need, and the regulars take care to force the master to hire the irregulars.


While women travel en masse to their employer, a confrontation takes place between Silvana and Francesca; the latter accuses the first in front of Marco of being the thief of the millionaire necklace that the newspapers talk about, stolen from a hotel in Turin, instead of denouncing her, Marco lets her go. Now, however, the two women are bound by a secret. Regretting what she did, Silvana becomes friends with Francesca and has her unfortunate life told.

Pregnant with Walter, the woman had to provide for the family , since he did not want children, it was she who kept the man working as a maid in the house of wealthy owners. It was to them that he stole the necklace.


In the evening, at the end of the tiring day of work, the worlds climb over the wall of the farmhouse to go dancing in the woods, Francesca follows them and discovers that they are all in a circle, together with the labourers and the military, watching Silvana dancing the boogie-woogie. Be stunned because the girl has again taken the jewelry out of her luggage and is showing it off around her neck. Suddenly buying on the scene, among spectators, Walter, Francesca accuses him of recklessness but he seems very taken by Silvana and his dance.


As before at the station, he takes to the track and dances with the beautiful little world. Marco comes along with his comrades, as he sees the monile around Silvana's neck loses his temper and rips it off him. Marco and Walter fight, the sergeant has the better of him; Francesca, who collected the necklace from the ground, holds Walter out the knife. At this point he reveals to her that the jewel is just a copy of the original, all the newspapers reported the news.


Walter hides in the rice warehouse, Francesca brings him some of his ration, but Silvana is spying on her. The man surprises the thiefs who steal a few bags of rice and proposes to them to take a shot, organize to take away tons of them with the trucks that will come to take the worlds back to take them to the station.


Francesca no longer feels succubus than Walter; perhaps thanks to the love he is discovering little by little for Marco.


It starts to rain, the paddy work stops, the little worlds remain closed in the comrades. Every day stopped is one day less pay. After spying on Francesca's movements, Silvana enters the warehouse where she meets Walter.


Man tells her about the possibility of another life together, a life of wealth in which there is no need to work, he lets her try but does not give him Rain reaches the sixth consecutive day, the exasperated worlds decide to go to the rice paddy anyway, covered with bag raincoats, and set to work under inclement weather. They are all looking for Silvana, but the girl met Walter on the way to the embankment, the man tells her to love her in the presence of Francesca, who has instead freed himself from his nefarious influence and realizes that the man is plotting a bad shot.


In the meantime, the forty days of the monda have passed, and the season is over, at the farmhouse a dancing defense is organized for the farewell to the girls. 


It is this moment of confusion that Walter has chosen to complete the blow, but he needs Silvana's active complicity. He asks her to open the rogge that bring water to the rice paddies to flood the fields and distract the attention of the warehouse. As a pledge of love gives her the necklace, Silvana is the one who does not know that it is false.


It's party night. A high scaffolding has been mounted for musicians, a jetty is also prepared to dance above the water. The worlds proclaim silvana by acclamation " Miss Mondina 1948", but soon after the girl disappears with her silver paper cono and runs to open the locks of the rogge. The water bursts into the rice fields, they risk overwhelming the still fragile ears. The alarm spreads, everyone runs through the flooded rice paddies to close the shutters and redo the embankments by hand. Meanwhile, Walter and accomplices are at the warehouse to fill the trucks.


Francesca walks away from the party and goes to the rice paddies, here she meets Marco fresh from leave, she is coming home with her sack. Francesca asks him for help but he gives in only when he realizes the great danger to crops.


Silvana follows into the farmhouse, the accomplices flee with trucks. Walter and Silvana hide in the butcher's shop of the farmhouse, Marco and Francesca follow them. The last dramatic confrontation takes place here. Both men are armed, but Marco is wounded in the shoulder by the throwing of a knife, and Walter takes a bullet into his side. Now it's the women who get the guns.


Silvana clumsyly wields hers, is in tears,Walter incites her to shoot. Francesca confronts her face-to-face and tells her the truth; When she discovers that the necklace is false, Silvana understands that she has so far experienced a tragic illusion, and shoots Walter. Without them being able to stop her, the girl comes out of the butcher's shop and climbs the scaffolding prepared for the dance. Francesca follows her on the ladder, but it is too late: the little world throws herself into the void.


The next morning, as the carabinieri lay a blanket on Silvana's body, the worlds are all waiting to leave with the trucks and return home. One by one they open the bags of rice received as wages and spread a punch on Silvana's corpse, as an extreme tribute, until they cover it. Marco, with his arm around his neck from the wound, walks away with Francesca. For the two, a new life begins together.






The idea for the film came to Giuseppe De Santis in 1947 when, returning from Paris where he had presented Tragic Hunt, he found himself in turin station waiting for the connection to Rome and began to hear songs and discovered that they were little worlds returning from the Rice Paddy, De Santis was fascinated by them.


De Santis was looking for an "Italian Rita Hayworth", so when Silvana Mangano showed up at the audition with excessive makeup and clothing, all the opposite of what the director had in mind for the protagonist, a leading role undecided on Lucia Bosè. One day De Santis accidentally met Silvana Mangano on the streets of Rome, saw her dressed modestly, without makeup and with her hair wet from the rain, remaining to talk to us for about half an hour. He later summoned her, auditioned her and was cast; De Santis struggled to convince Lux Film and Dino De Laurentis that they wanted a more established actress. For the making of the film, the authors turned to the director of the Unit who introduced them to Raf Vallone, then a young journalist, and decided to have him act.


The film cost 70 million lire, the filming took place in the Vercelli countryside, more precisely in the Cascina Veneria in the Tenuta Selve (Salacco).






" Immediate expression of the so-called Italian neorealism, Bitter Rice, should have accentuated, outside any scheme, a trend that already in the first film, Tragic Hunt (1947), had shown characteristics not easily confused and in many respects new and original. De Santis's voice had then joined, albeit with a different, sometimes contrasting timbre, that of a Rossellini or a De Sica, in the avant-garde group of Italian cinema ...


Bitter rice, on the other hand, unexpectedly marks a setback. The compromise that followed passed on the film in a negative sense. The already complicated and astrusa ideological structure of the film becomes even more complicated and silvana's character, far from clarifying the director's intentions, cloudes ideas even more.. Relatively clearer, if one can speak the figure of the thief maid who at the contact of the work in rice paddy creates a new knowledge of life and regains the lost honesty both because it is the most direct expression of De Santis' social beliefs, and also thanks to the qualities of actress of Doris Dowling, who stands out clearly from the amateur complex of the cast. »


( Fernaldo Di Giammatteo, Black and White, 12 December 1949 ) " The two most showy films of the week: Bitter Rice and Amber, have in common the type of heroine, an unscrupulous girl determined to make a career at any cost.


Although the American Ambra is a coarser film than the Italian Riso Amaro, it is clear that as a character, Ambra is truer than Silvana, Riso Amaro is a more artistic work, we mean richer than vital ferments ... Having said that, de Santis must be reproached. Why didn't he rethink his subject more by hunting back American memories and why didn't he tell the good Gasman that scoundrels on our side are different from how he believes them?


(Giorgi Bianchi, Candido, 2 October 1949)