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Heaven Over the Marshes (1949)
"Cielo sulla palude" (original title)

 |  Drama  |  24 November 1949 (Italy)
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The scene is the Pontine Marshes, a disease-ridden region. The year is 1902. Maria Goretti, a twelve-year-old girl, lives with her parents, poor farm hands, in the house of Serenelli, a ... See full summary »



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Title: Heaven Over the Marshes (1949)

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Complete credited cast:
Rubi D'Alma ...
Michele Malaspina ...
Domenico Viglione Borghese ...
Il dottore (as D. Viglione Borghese)
Ines Orsini ...
Assunta Radico ...
Assunta Goretti - La madre di Maria
Giovanni Martella ...
Luigi Goretti - il padre di Maria
Mauro Matteucci ...
Alessandro Serenelli
Francesco Tomalillo ...
Giovanni Serenelli - il padre di Serenelli
María Luisa Landín ...
Ida Paoloni ...
Federico Meloni ...
Jole Savoretti ...
Giovanni Sestili ...
Vincenzo Solfiotti ...


The scene is the Pontine Marshes, a disease-ridden region. The year is 1902. Maria Goretti, a twelve-year-old girl, lives with her parents, poor farm hands, in the house of Serenelli, a heavy drinker who has offered them board and lodging. The farmer has a son, Alessandro, aged eighteen, who is sexually attracted to the pious girl. Maria resists his advances. One day the young man can't help it anymore: he rapes Maria before murdering her. Before she dies, Maria forgives her assailant. After her death she is canonized as a saint. Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

24 November 1949 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Céu Sobre o Pântano  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Italian censorship certificate # 6572 delivered on 7-10-1949. See more »


Referenced in The Barbarian Invasions (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

Little-known masterpiece of the Italian cinema
4 April 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The title CIELO SULLA PALUDE translates roughly as "Sky Over the Marshland." Augusto Genina's film is a little-known masterpiece of the Italian cinema, made in that same era that gave us THE BICYCLE THIEF, LA TERRA TREMA, and PAISAN. It is sad that this movie was practically never released in the United States and is not available on video/DVD here. It did get some sporadic play in a dubbed version entitled "The Life of Maria Goretti" with some footage highlighting the canonization of Maria Goretti added for showings in some places. Video copies are readily available in Italy, where the movie was often shown to groups of school children to promote the concept of "purity." New York's Museum of Modern Art owns a subtitled 35mm print.

For those unfamiliar with Maria Goretti, she was a girl who rejected the sexual advances of a boy, Alessandro who shared a farm dwelling with her family after the death of her father, and, because of her refusal to satisfy the boy's desires...which she barely even understood, was stabbed by him and died soon afterwards. Maria was made a saint by the Catholic church in 1948. Although not shown in the film, Alessandro, subsequently repented and went into the religious life. The movie delineates how the young girl's religious fervor and joy in life, despite a harsh existence and the death of her father, never lost her spirit of love and forgiveness, even after the terrifying assault on her. It is a mistake to think of this movie as just another exercise in didactic Catholic pietism. It is much more than that, as is Rossellini's FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS. It is, indeed , a powerful portrayal of the hard lives of peasant farmers in a harsh an unforgiving environment, that of the paludal malaria-ridden marsh lands that existed to the south of Rome...and of the innocent transcendent spirit of true love of this marsh daughter, Maria.

The young Ines Orsini gives Maria that aura of innocence and joy that go far in making the film truly work. The film is exquisitely photographed in blacks and whites in beautifully composed images of stark contrast, and the look alone of this film is nothing short of mesmerizing. G.R. Aldo, the director of photography, was one of Italy's greatest cinematographers, and he had been responsible a year earlier for the stunning visuals of LA TERRA TREMA by Luchino Visconti. Viewers familiar with the earlier film will no doubt connect the photographic similarities reflecting the starkness of the two environments, i.e. the marshes of CIELO and the basalt rock formations in the ocean off Sicily's Aci Trezza in TERRA. This is a film, in short, to seek out and, once seen, to admire for many different reasons.

A bit of very interesting trivia: in the 2003 French-Canadian film THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, the dying main character reflects on a scene from CIELO SULLA PALUDE where Ines Orsini is wading in the ocean and her legs are uncovered. For the character in the Denys Arcand film, it was an arousing erotic moment. And it was so too for the unhealthily obsessive Alessandro in real life and in the Genina's memorable movie based on those events.

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