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Storia di una capinera (1993)

Catania, Sicilia 1854. A serious epidemic of cholera is hitting the region. Maria a 16 years old novice leaves her convent and returns her home to avoid contamination. Here she finds a ... See full summary »


Franco Zeffirelli


Giovanni Verga (novel), Franco Zeffirelli (screenplay and adaptation) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Bettis ... Maria
Johnathon Schaech ... Nino
Eva Alexander Eva Alexander ... Annetta (as Sara-Jane Alexander)
Andreá Cassar Andreá Cassar ... Gigi
John Castle ... Giuseppe
Valentina Cortese ... Mother Superior
Sinéad Cusack ... Matilde
Frank Finlay ... Father Nunzio
Mia Fothergill Mia Fothergill ... Giuditta
Pat Heywood Pat Heywood ... Sister Teresa
Janet Maw Janet Maw ... Tecia
Denis Quilley ... Baron Cesaro
Vanessa Redgrave ... Sister Agata
Annabel Ryan Annabel Ryan ... Filomena
Gareth Thomas ... Corrado


Catania, Sicilia 1854. A serious epidemic of cholera is hitting the region. Maria a 16 years old novice leaves her convent and returns her home to avoid contamination. Here she finds a difficult situation, in fact her stepmother and her half-sisters prevent Maria to live the normal life of a teenager. In their minds Maria is the promised "bride of God" and a regular life for her is inappropriate. Nino, her handsome neighbor, falls in love for Maria who isn't indifferent to him. But when Maria comes back to her convent the way to become nun is compelled. Now Maria can understand Sister Agata, and realizes she became mad cause a lost and impossible love like the one between Maria and Nino. Written by 1felco

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

love | convent | nun | novice | cholera | See All (24) »




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Italy | Japan



Release Date:

February 1994 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Calugarita See more »

Filming Locations:

Catania, Sicily, Italy

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The final cinema film of Denis Quilley. See more »


Version of La storia di una capinera (1917) See more »

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User Reviews

Pious Daughter of Almighty God or Faithful Wife of Beloved Man...?
1 June 2008 | by marcin_kukuczkaSee all my reviews

There has been a widespread opinion that Franco Zeffirelli's best films include only opera or Shakespeare productions. However, if you get to know the director better, you'll soon find out how simplified this view is. As a fan of Zeffirelli, I studied his filmography and have recently received the copy of this movie, perhaps one of the least known films by the maestro, yet, indeed, one of the most beautiful and underrated movies where heart truly reigns over reason and where affection conquers indifference.

A considerably simple story by Giovanni Verga (1840-1922), the famous Sicilian realist writer, is showed in a convincing and genuine manner. Zeffirelli not only highlights the aspect of growing youthful love, a process of "acquiring" the nature around and within, but also supplies us with a wide range of factors concerning Sicily, its society, its customs and the powerful, influential Church.

Novices meant to be the "daughters of God" have a chance to get to know the world, its joys, its beauties as well as its temptations. Feelings of straightforward piety and certain spirituality turn to feelings of doubt and confusion. Nevertheless, despite the whole stormy nights of heart that the main character, Maria (Angela Bettis), experiences, Zeffirelli pays final tribute to Love, to individual greatness found in the superiority of feeling to reason. The director sometimes becomes pretty difficult and profound in the development of the character. Yet, what I particularly liked here is the tension around Maria's spiritual way, the reality of a growing feeling, emotions, finding the world strange and, despite of that, starting to love it. Yes, the movie is very emotional and these emotions range from admiration, joy to sentimentality, sometimes even nostalgia. But how are the strong feelings revealed?

The most successful aspect of the movie here is, besides all the rest, its visual impact. This is the Zeffirelli we know best with his glamor of images, "moving work of art", tribute to nature (both the universal and human). Who can possibly skip the moment Maria is led by the dog through a lovely garden to the waterfall where Nino is taking a bath with his friends? Another perfect moment is on Etna Volcano where we see the couple, as if, absorbed by the power of nature=power of unchanging abstract "Presence." The beginning of the movie is also memorably visual: we see the 1854 Catania flooded in the tragedy of the epidemic, people doing penance in processions, the dead bodies being burnt and families mourning - the visual impact is so strong that it immediately leads you, as a viewer, into a very specific world. This is art to be able to show the story as the bliss of perception and Zeffirelli is really good at that. He becomes once again as sentimentally sweet as in his St Francis movie (1972) and as dramatically romantic as in his Shakespearean love story (1968).

The insight into Sicily, its culture and the church is also worth mentioning as STORIA DI UNA CAPINERA is based on Giovanni Verga. We get the depictions of the cold Mother Superior (Valentina Cortese) in the convent and of the authoritative preacher Padre Nunzio (Frank Finlay). We see the people's lives so deeply affected by the church, the celebrations of graduating accompanied with the hymn "Te Deum Laudamus" and the focus on carnal sins considered by Padre Nunzio to be the very core of inferno. The figure of the priest stirs up anger but also fear. Someone might say that Zeffirelli becomes critical of the Church. However, after longer inspection, you realize that he is not critical of church in general but of a certain idea of religiosity and a wrong and harmful practice of a particular devotion. The powerful scene when Maria beats herself is this representation of a psyche under pressure within the fanatically formed conscience.

Finally, a mention must be made of the most important aspect in any movie, the cast. The performances are exceptional here. It's again one of these films that you watch with pleasure because you see true artists in the cast. Angela Bettis portrays her role intensely, truthfully, emotionally. She sometimes appears to be on the verge of overacting but does not cross the border. She is unforgettable throughout, particularly in her moments of temptations, fears and longing. Johnathon Schaech is very good as Nino - a sort of idea of man Zeffirelli developed in many of his movies. Schaech is a combination of Leonard Whiting's striking innocence and Domingo's attractive macho. At the same time, Bettis and Schaech retain the chemistry so much needed in their roles. Among the supporting cast, it's worth paying attention to Vanessa Redgrave in a terrific role of "insane" love-longing sister Agatha, John Castle in the role of Maria's father Giuseppe and Sinead Cusack as cruel step mother Matilde (Zeffirelli's theme widely developed in JANE EYRE). Valentina Cortese and Frank Finlay are also unforgettable and very good as strict church representatives.

If you ask me what sort of film STORIA DI UNA CAPINERA is, I'll answer you with a few words: it is a tribute to heart, the heart that faces its stormy nights, outer pressures, overcomes rigid rules, misunderstanding and, finally, comes back to its gist and the core of its existence...Honest Love. The film does not give any answer if it is better for the character to be the daughter of God or become the wife of beloved man. It is a moving picture of art, just a story of a "little sparrow" with her glance at a beautiful world and the last day when she abandons her "earthly life" in order to enter the "kingdom of heaven" 9/10

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