A Venetian countess, pregnant with illegitimate child, befriends her also pregnant servant girl and they almost become more than friends, but her family, infuriated over her scandalous pregnancy, has a plan for her and the baby.



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Cast overview:
Chiara Muti ...
Athina Cenci ...
Toni Barpi ...
Don Luigi (as Antonio Barpi)
Eleonora (madre di Cornelia)
Massimo De Rossi ...
Padre di Cornelia


A Venetian countess, pregnant with illegitimate child, befriends her also pregnant servant girl and they almost become more than friends, but her family, infuriated over her scandalous pregnancy, has a plan for her and the baby.

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Release Date:

25 August 2000 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Rosa and Cornelia  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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User Reviews

A fluffy costume drama? No: a quietly cruel period piece!
15 April 2005 | by (Rome, Italy) – See all my reviews

Based on a play, "L'Attesa" (The Waiting), which was inspired by a true story, the film is set in 18th century Venice and its adjacent countryside. This underrated little gem of a movie wasn't very successful in Italy and never distributed outside its borders, though it has its quiet following among those who were lucky enough to catch it. In very simplistic terms, it could be classed as a "women's" film, but only insofar as it concerns the destinies of two illegitimately pregnant girls – a young aristocrat and her maid – and treats matters from a strictly feminine viewpoint. But then again, it would have to be, seeing as men have never had to contend with the tragedy of falling pregnant out of wedlock before the sexual revolution of the 1960s! I guess then that in this sense, the circumstances that produce the drama are feminine – though the themes of friendship, solidarity, sacrifice, private vs public façade, etc., are universal.

Cornelia, a pretty 19-year-old Venetian Countess, is destined to marry a French aristocrat she has never even met. This union will restore her family's return to wealth. For this reason, it is essential that they hide her from the eyes of the world during her pregnancy, keeping her a virtual recluse in their isolated summer country estate. Not only must no one know of her pregnancy: they must believe her a virgin, or her French suitor's family won't have her. Cornelia's wet-nurse Piera, played by the seasoned actress Athina Cenci, is willed by her employers as their daughter's benevolent but strict jailer during her pregnancy.

Meanwhile the mysterious Rosa, an illiterate but resourceful young peasant who introduces herself to Cornelia as her new maid, is hired for the completion of a mysterious and, we soon discover, horrifically ruthless plan. When the film opens both Cornelia and Rosa are at the beginning of their pregnancies, though the film never probes into the identity of their respective babies' fathers. It's simply irrelevant in this context: the babies are illegitimate and this is all that matters to predetermine their jinxed destinies.

Initially hostile towards Rosa, the fragile, spoilt but ultimately lovable Cornelia soon enough becomes almost dependant on her young maid's solid, no-nonsense, warm and honest personality (and so does the spectator!). The two young women are the same age, yet Rosa has a knowledge of the world probably too vast for her age, one that Cornelia could only dream of. Yet in some ways, without the stifling expectations placed upon her by status, Rosa is the freer of the two. None of these seemingly obvious themes are ever portrayed in anything but a subtle and believably manner, never in a polarised, stereotyped, Titanic-like, "poor peasant=good, rich aristocrat=bad" manner!

The three female leads – the two pregnant girls and Piera, the middle-aged wet-nurse – are believably multi-faceted and superbly portrayed by the three actresses. The engaging Rosa is played by Stefania Rocca, one of Italy's most talented young actresses, also seen in The Talented Mr Ripley as Silvana (Jude Law's Italian lover who drowns herself). It's quite impossible not to grow tremendously attached to these characters, especially the two young leads.

A tender, humane, quietly but persistently sensual film all the more cruel for its unexpected denouement, I warmly recommend this to anyone on the lookout for a hidden, little-known, understated but emotionally powerful gem. But beware: despite its tenderness it'll reveal an unexpectedly cruel side, like someone gently and lovingly handing you a kitten to cuddle only to suddenly stab it in front of your eyes. But then, human life was worth far less back then, and this film shows us this in an unflinchingly realistic manner, keeping other costume dramas with contemporary romantic notions at arm's length from itself.

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