"Proibito" ("Forbidden") was based on the Nobel-winning Sardinian writer Grazia Deledda's novel "La madre," "The Mother." It is a very loose adaptation of the book and is a dramatic story of the bloodshed in a Sardinian village as the result of an age-old feud between the Corraine and Barras families, akin to the story of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Into the conflict comes the priest Don Paolo Solinas. Assigned to restore and reopen the local church, he takes on the larger mission of trying to broker a peace between the warring factions. At the brink of success, he wants to withdraw to separate himself form the girl who is falling in love with him, Agnese (Lea Massari). The priest had approved of the plan for her, a Barras, to marry a Corraine.
The bishop at Cagliari urges Don Paolo to reconsider, which he does, and with ultimate success. The leader of the Corraine clan is Costantino, played with force by the dynamic Amedeo Nazzari. After seeing the death of a police officer, shot in the crossfire, Costantino consents to a full rapprochement between the two families.
The novel of Deledda has none of this except for a romance between the priest and Agnese and the mother's harrowed opposition to it. In this version the whole piece has been turned into a kind of western, with rival gangs, against a stark landscape.
Director Mario Monicelli is best known for his comedy films, especially "I soliti ignoti" ("Big Deal on Madonna Street") and he does a decent enough job here. Mel Ferrer as the priest looks the role but is a trifle bland and unconvincing presence as the peacemaking cleric. The Technicolor photography by Aldo Tonti, among the first instances in an Italian film, is effective. The musical background is mostly the Brahms Symphony No. 4, which had also served as a score for Luis Buñuel's haunting "Las Hurdes," another film shot against a primitive backdrop.
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