Swept Away (1974 film)

Swept Away (Italian: Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto; the full English title is Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August;[3] later truncated to simply Swept Away in subsequent releases) is a 1974 Italian adventure comedy-drama film written and directed by Lina Wertmüller and starring Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato.

Swept Away
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed byLina Wertmüller
Produced byRomano Cardarelli
Written byLina Wertmüller
Music byPiero Piccioni
Edited byFranco Fraticelli
Distributed byMedusa Distribuzione
Release date
  • 18 December 1974 (1974-12-18)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
Box office$6 million (US and Canada)[2]

The film follows a wealthy woman whose yachting vacation with friends in the Mediterranean Sea takes an unexpected turn when she and one of the boat's crew are separated from the others and they become stranded on a deserted island. The woman's capitalist beliefs and the man's communist convictions clash, but during their struggle to survive their situation, their social roles are reversed.[4]

Swept Away was released to divisive but largely positive reviews and went on to receive the 1975 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Award for Top Foreign Film.[5]


An arrogant wealthy capitalist named Raffaella (Mariangela Melato) is vacationing on a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea with friends—swimming, sunbathing, and talking incessantly about the virtues of her class and the worthlessness of the political left. Her nonstop political monologue infuriates one of the underclass deckhands on her yacht, Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini), a dedicated Communist who manages to restrain his opinions to avoid upsetting his boss and losing his good job. Despite her humiliating insults, Gennarino agrees to take her out on a dinghy late in the evening to see the rest of her friends who have gone ahead without her. On their way, the outboard motor gives out, leaving them stranded in the middle of the sea with no land in sight.

After a night at sea, Gennarino manages to get the motor running again but has no idea where they are or how to get to land. Eventually they spot an island and head toward it, destroying their dinghy in the process. On land, they discover that there is no one on the island except them, and they are effectively shipwrecked. Accustomed to having everything done for her, Raffaella begins ordering Gennarino about, but this is the final straw for him and he snaps, refusing to assist her any longer. Raffaella reacts with a string of insults, but he gives as good as he gets, and they split up to explore the island on their own.

Much better suited to island life than Raffaella, Gennarino is soon catching and cooking lobsters. Gradually their roles become reversed. While she has to rely on him for food, Gennarino wants her to be his slave, convinced that women are born to serve men. He even forces her to endure the indignity of washing his underwear. When she reacts in angry defiance, he slaps her around. Undeniably attracted to Raffaella, Gennarino attempts to rape her, but then changes his mind, deciding that it would be more satisfying if she gave herself to him willingly. Later that evening, Raffaella does approach him and both willingly engage in repeated, passionate, sexual relations. He wants her to fall in love with him, and as their differences are gradually forgotten, they reach a kind of balance, although Gennarino still hits her and she takes the more subservient role. Eventually they spot a ship, and although they are both reluctant to disrupt their newfound paradise, they signal the ship and are rescued.

After returning home, they soon revert to their former lives and social roles—she once again embracing the upper-class lifestyles of her friends; he returning to a life of a lower-class worker and husband. They both understand something profound and unsettling about what they've experienced, but Raffaella is unwilling to abandon the society of privilege that has such a strong hold on her. Abandoned by the object of his desires, Gennarino returns defeated to his sad life and loveless marriage—far removed from an idyllic island in the Mediterranean Sea.



The scenarios of the film are glimpses of Sardinia. The film was shot along the eastern Sardinian coast, in the province of Nuoro. The beach of the landing of the two shipwrecked is Cala Fuili, in the municipality of Dorgali. The beach of Cala Luna, straddling the municipality of Dorgali and that of Baunei, has been set for another good part of the shooting. The Carunchio refuge and the most sensual scenes were filmed in the dunes of Capo Comino, a town in the municipality of Siniscola.[7]


Critical response

In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, American film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, his highest rating. Ebert wrote that the film "resists the director's most determined attempts to make it a fable about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and persists in being about a man and a woman. On that level, it's a great success."[3]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called Swept Away "the most successful fusion of Miss Wertmuller's two favorite themes, sex and politics, which are here so thoroughly and so successfully tangled that they become a single subject, like two people in love."[8] Canby went on to write:

Swept Away is less a film about ideas than about previous commitments, for which neither character can be held completely accountable. The enormous appeal of the comedy has to do with the way, briefly, each character, is able to overcome those commitments. It also has to do with the performances of Mr. Giannini and Miss Melato, who tear into their roles with a single-minded intensity that manages to be both hugely comic and believable, even in the most outrageous of situations. They are the best things to happen to Italian comedy since Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren squared off in the nineteen-sixties.[8]

Some reviewers criticized the film as deeply misogynistic, with its themes of violence against women, subjugation, and rape. Anthony Kaufman, in The Village Voice, called it "possibly the most outrageously misogynist film ever made by a woman."[9]

Other reviewers and analysts responded that those who focused on the misogyny simply didn't understand the film's message about class warfare. James Berardinelli defended the film, writing "Those who view this film casually may easily mistake it for a male fantasy...The reality, however, is that Wertmuller is exhibiting the courage to show things that other filmmakers shy away from."[10] John P. Lovell wrote "The sexual violence can be analyzed as political violence within the framework of patriarchal politics and the film's concern with a symbolic presentation of social revolt."[11]

In her review in Jump Cut, Tania Modleski dismissed those justifications, contending that critics would not have been so kind to those who made films which reinforced stereotypes—culminating in violent subjugation—about oppressed ethnic groups, so there was no justification for critics to praise a rape-fantasy film. Responding to the film's message about class warfare, she wrote "So even if Wertmuller wanted to convey only a political message, she has clouded rather than clarified the issues. She should have made both parties male."[12]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 65% positive rating from top film critics based on 17 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10.[13]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1975 David di Donatello Award Best Music Piero Piccioni Won
National Board of Review Award[14] Top Five Foreign Films Lina Wertmüller Won
New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Screenplay Lina Wertmüller Nominated


The film was remade in 2002 as Swept Away, starring Madonna and directed by her then-husband Guy Ritchie. The film was a critical and commercial failure. The male lead was played by Adriano Giannini, the son of Giancarlo Giannini.

See also


    1. "SWEPT AWAY (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 28 March 1977. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
    2. The Editors of Variety (2000). The Variety Almanac 2000. Boxtree Ltd. pp. 67–68. ISBN 0-7522-7159-8.
    3. Ebert, Roger (20 February 1976). "Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
    4. "Swept Away". IMDb. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
    5. "Awards for Swept Away". IMDb. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
    6. "Full cast and crew for Swept Away". IMDb. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
    7. "Filming locations for Swept Away". IMDb. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
    8. Canby, Vincent (18 September 1975). "Swept Away... By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
    9. Kaufman, Anthony (4 September 2002). "Maggie May..." The Village Voice. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
    10. Berardinelli, James (2002). "Swept Away". Reel Views. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
    11. Lovell, John P. (1998). Insights from Film Into Violence and Oppression: Shattered dreams and the good life. Praeger/Greenwood. p. 47. ISBN 0-275-95972-4.
    12. Tania Modleski (1976). "Wertmuller's Women Swept Away by the Usual Destiny". Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media. 1976 (10–11): 1, 16. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
    13. "Swept Away (Travolti da un Insolito Destino nell'Azzurro Mare d'Agosto) (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
    14. "1975 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
    • Bondanella, Peter (2009). History of Italian Cinema. New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1785-5.
    • Bullaro, Grace Russo (2007). Man in Disorder: The Cinema of Lina Wertmüller in the 1970s. Troubador Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-905886-39-5.
    • Wertmüller, Lina (1978). The Screenplays of Lina Wertmuller. New York: Werner Books. ISBN 978-0-446-87262-1.
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