Seven Beauties

Seven Beauties (Italian: Pasqualino Settebellezze) is a 1975 Italian language film written and directed by Lina Wertmüller and starring Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, and Shirley Stoler.

Seven Beauties
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed byLina Wertmüller
Produced by
Written byLina Wertmüller
Music byNando de Luca e Enzo Jannacci
CinematographyTonino Delli Colli
Edited byFranco Fraticelli
Medusa Distribuzione
Distributed byMedusa Distribuzione
Release date
  • 4 May 1975 (1975-05-04) (France)
  • 20 December 1975 (1975-12-20) (Italy)
Running time
115 minutes

Written by Wertmüller, the film is about an Italian everyman who deserts the army during World War II and is then captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp, where he does anything to survive. Through flashbacks, we learn about his family of seven unattractive sisters, his accidental murder of one sister's lover, his imprisonment in an insane asylum—where he rapes a patient—and his volunteering to be a soldier to escape confinement.

For her work on the film, Wertmüller became the first woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, a feat not matched again until 1993, when New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion was nominated for The Piano. The film received three other Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Foreign Language Film.[1] It also received one Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Foreign Film.

The production design and costume design were by the director's husband, Enrico Job.


The picaresque story follows its protagonist, Pasqualino (Giannini), a dandy and small-time hood in Naples in Fascist and World War II Italy.

To save the family honour, Pasqualino kills a pimp who had turned his sister into a prostitute. To dispose of the victim's body, he dismembers it and places the parts in suitcases. Caught by the police, he is convicted and sent to prison.

Pasqualino succeeds in getting himself transferred to a psychiatric ward but, desperate to get out, he volunteers for the Italian Army, which is allied with the German army. With an Italian comrade, he eventually deserts the army, but they are captured and sent to a German concentration camp.

In a bid to save his own life, Pasqualino decides to survive the camp by providing sexual favors to the obese and ugly female commandant (Stoler). His plan succeeds, but the commandant puts Pasqualino in charge of a barracks as a kapo. Here he must select six men to be killed to prevent all from being killed. Pasqualino ends up executing his former Army comrade, and he is responsible for the death of another fellow prisoner, a Spanish anarchist.

At the war's end, upon his return to Naples, Pasqualino discovers that his seven sisters, his fiancée, and even his mother have all survived by becoming prostitutes.


  • Giancarlo Giannini as Pasqualino Frafuso aka Settebellezze
  • Fernando Rey as Pedro (the anarchist prisoner)
  • Shirley Stoler as The Prison Camp Commandant[N 1]
  • Elena Fiore as Concettina (a sister)
  • Piero Di Iorio as Francesco (Pasqualino's comrade)
  • Enzo Vitale as Don Raffaele
  • Roberto Herlitzka as Socialist
  • Lucio Amelio as Lawyer
  • Ermelinda De Felice as Pasqualino's Mother
  • Bianca D'Origlia as The Psychiatrist
  • Francesca Marciano as Carolina
  • Mario Conti as Totonno "18 Carati" (Concettina's pimp)



Giancarlo Giannini starred in three other films Wertmüller made during this period: The Seduction of Mimi (1972), Love and Anarchy (1973), and Swept Away (1974).

Filming locations

Seven Beauties was filmed on location in Naples, Campania, Italy.

Opening sequence

In the opening sequence of Seven Beauties, spoken over World War II archival footage showing the destruction of cities and men, Wertmüller defines the object of her critique—a "particular petty bourgeois social type".[2]

Critical response

The subject of the film is survival. At the time of its release, it was controversial for its graphic depiction of Nazi concentration camps. In his 1976 essay "Surviving", Bruno Bettelheim, while admiring the film's artistry, severely criticized its impression of the experience of concentration camp survivors.[3] Bettelheim's own views about concentration camps have likewise been critiqued.[4]

On the aggregate reviewer web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an 80% positive rating from top film critics (based on 15 reviews) and an 89% positive audience rating (based on 2,114 reviews).[5] In April 2019, a restored version of the film was selected to be shown in the Cannes Classics section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.[6]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1977 Academy Awards Best Director Lina Wertmüller Nominated[N 2]
Best Actor in a Leading Role Giancarlo Giannini Nominated
Best Writing (Original Screenplay) Lina Wertmüller Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement Lina Wertmüller Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Foreign Film Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Film Nominated
Best Director Lina Wertmüller Nominated
Best Actor Giancarlo Giannini Nominated
Best Screenplay Lina Wertmüller Nominated

See also


  1. Shirley Stoler's character was based on Ilse Koch, notoriously known as "the Bitch of Buchenwald". The wife of the camp's commandant Karl Otto Koch, she reportedly took sadistic pleasure in torturing inmates, and was accused of having lampshades made out of their skin, although these charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.
  2. This was the first nomination of a woman for Best Director in the history of the Academy Awards.
  1. "The 49th Academy Awards (1977) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2012-03-25.
  2. Astle, Richard (1977). "Seven Beauties Survival, Lina-style". Jump Cut. pp. 22–23. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  3. Bettelheim, Bruno. Surviving and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.
  4. Biale, David (1 October 1979). "Surviving and Other Essays, by Bruno Bettelheim". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  5. "Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  6. "Cannes Classics 2019". Festival de Cannes. 26 April 2019. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  • Bondanella, Peter (2009). History of Italian Cinema. New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0826417855.
  • Bullaro, Grace Russo (2007). Man in Disorder: The Cinema of Lina Wertmüller in the 1970s. Troubador Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1905886395.
  • Wertmüller, Lina (1978). The Screenplays of Lina Wertmuller. New York: Werner Books. ISBN 978-0446872621.
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