Criminal Code, art. 587
“Anyone who causes the death of the spouse, daughter or sister, in the act in which he discovers the illegitimate carnal relationship and in the state of anger determined by the offense brought to his or family’s honor, is punished with imprisonment from three at seven years. The same sentence is subject to those who, in these circumstances, cause the death of the person who is in an illegitimate carnal relationship with the spouse, with the daughter or with the sister”
Law 587 is the protagonist of this film … a law that remained in the Italian code until 1981.
Dino Risi uses this law to show the paradox of a nation that feels modern but still maintains some absurd rules of the past.
Given the fact that most of the victims of this law were women, it is very clear that it is a law made for men.
The History of Fefe shows how this law could be used as an excuse to get rid of someone who no longer loved.
The title Divorce Italian Style must also make us think how this law shows the paradox of a nation that accepts murder but cannot accept divorce … it seems that divorce is a sin superior to murder
Women in this film are used by Dino Risi to demonstrate the backwardness of the South. They are the exclusive property of man, to whom they must be totally submissive.
If they are harassed, it is their fault because they are the ones who provoke the man.
They are exhibited but at the same time hidden. Virginity is their treasure that they must bring as a gift to their spouse.
They live in the shadows of their men. Angela instead, is a more modern woman and represents the times that are changing
Nothing justifies a murder if not the occurrence of a more serious fact. But what could be more serious than a murder? The loss of one’s honor.
But what is the honor? Dino Risi seems to explain that honor is not an objective thing but is linked to the reputation that is given or removed by the peer group. Especially in a village, reputation is linked to the respect one receives from others.
But when a betrayal destroys this honor, then the reputation is stained forever … And this stain falls on the whole family, indeed on the whole village … the honor must be absolutely recovered and the stain must be clean.
All this has value especially in the small villages of the south shows us, Dino Risi … villages that have the shape of the community rather than of society, where the residual values, now obsolete, influence people’s lives
Where do these outdated values resist? No longer in modern cities but in smaller communities and in villages where time seems to have stopped.
The backwardness of the village, however, is not due to an inability to evolve but is due to a desire to keep things as they have always been.
To check that nothing changes and that everything remains as it has always been is the task of the same members of the community, who implement a form of social control that prevents any kind of innovation and change. The goal is to keep the community as it always was because a change could lead to its destruction.