The Italian pin-up
Silvana, whose real name is precisely Silvana Mangano, is chosen not by chance by De Santis. Although it is true that this film gave her a great celebrity, it must be remembered that Silvana Mangano was already considered a real Italian pin-up at that time. Who better than she could represent the young girl who wants to be different from the others, to be like the Americans Pin-Up?
Obviously, De Santis also chooses her for her “body” … he knows well that the film will have a dose of eroticism that will attract the public, especially the male one …
With Silvana Mangano, De Santis betrays a little the rules of Neorealism reintroducing the figure of the diva … as well as for what concerns the actors. In fact, the use of real people is limited to the crowds of mondine while the protagonists are all professional actors well known by the Italian public
Regarding the link between cultural colonization and the character of Silvana, this is shown from the first scenes: unlike other girls, she knows American dances, constantly chews gum, likes to read the Popular magazines … these elements serve the director to associate the character with the new culture coming from overseas, and that he tries in every way to fight and denigrate with this film
Silvana looks like a girl with her head a bit ‘in the clouds, always fantasizing, but ultimately she is a good girl who, for example, tries to help Francesca when she discovers that she is clandestine. Until the moment when he discovers the necklace, which has a power of corruption on her.
This jewel is for her the chance to change her life and finally become a wealthy woman without having to work in the fields. Walter also has an influence on her: she is fascinated by the figure of the thief, probably because of all the romances and stories read in the Popular Magazine. Walter and the necklace will finally allow her to escape perhaps to go to America that she dreams so much.
Pursuing his goal means betraying his companions … although with much regret, Silvana agrees to help Walter in his plan to steal the rice collected during the month. But when she discovers that everything she has done has been for nothing and that all the dreams that followed were nothing but fake, as well as the necklace, then she decides to take her own life.
This tragic ending is the warning of De Santis: to pursue false values leads only to failure and death