The Decameron (1971 film)

The Decameron (Italian: Il Decameron) is a 1971 film by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, based on the novel Il Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. It is the first movie of Pasolini's Trilogy of life, the others being The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights.

Il Decameron
Il Decameron film poster
Directed byPier Paolo Pasolini
Produced byAlberto Grimaldi
Written byPier Paolo Pasolini (from Giovanni Boccaccio)
StarringFranco Citti
Ninetto Davoli
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyTonino Delli Colli
Edited byNino Baragli
Tatiana Casini Morigi
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
West Germany 29 June 1971 (première at the Berlin Film Festival)
US 12 December 1971
Running time
106 minutes
Box office11,167,557 admissions (Italy)[1]

The tales contain abundant nudity, sex, slapstick and scatological humor. The film was entered into the 21st Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize.[2]


The film, shot in Neapolitan dialect at the behest of the director, offers a variety of episodes from the stories most characteristic of the work of Giovanni Boccaccio, and are linked through a pupil of the painter Giotto (played by Pasolini himself) who arrives in Naples to paint a mural.

In the first episode, Andreuccio of Perugia is cheated by a Neapolitan and dropped in a trough of excrement. The young man is found in the pulp by two thieves who are attempting a coup at a nearby church to steal the jewels from the tomb of a bishop who died a few days earlier. Andreuccio is persuaded and, with a brilliant ruse, manages to steal for himself the most beautiful ring of the deceased.

In the second episode, a young man, Masetto da Lamporecchio, is encouraged by some nuns in a convent to have sex with them. In fact, the young man already had this idea, pretending to be deaf and dumb. But the sisters prove insatiable, and the young man finally breaks his silence to protest that he cannot keep up with their demands. The mother prioress declares his sudden ability to speak a miracle from God, but this is merely an excuse to keep the young man at the convent.

In the third episode, the commoner Peronella makes a cuckold of her dimwitted husband. While she is having sex with a lover, her husband unexpectedly comes home for a holiday. The other man hides in a large pot while the husband reveals that he has a buyer for the pot with him. Peronella quickly says that she already has a buyer and that he's inspecting the pot. The husband accepts this and goes to the pot room where the stranger says the inside of the pot is dirty. The wife tells the husband to clean it before selling it, and while he is inside the pot, his wife and her lover loudly and passionately copulate next to it. The husband remains oblivious.

In the fourth episode, set in France, Ser Ciappelletto, a merchant, is sent to make a deal. For most of his life, he devoted his soul to sin, seduction and profit, disregarding all moral and ethical values. In fact, God punishes him with a serious illness that forces him to the bed and eventually death. But Ciappelletto wants to confess and calls a Monaco to tell a myriad of lies. Because of these lies, they consider making him a saint. After his death, Ciappelletto is revered as a martyr.

In the fifth episode, a young woman meets with her lover on a terrace to plan a fraud against her parents and makes love with him there. The next morning the parents of the girl find the two lovers naked, but recognise the boy as a good match, as his marriage would earn a significant amount of money through dowry, and allow their daughter to marry him.

In the sixth episode, set in Sicily, a girl, Elizabeth, attractive and possessing great wealth, falls in love with Lorenzo, a young employee of her brothers. However, her brothers discover their love and conspire to murder Lorenzo in order to save their family's honor. They bury Lorenzo's body far from home but Elizabeth is led to the corpse of her beloved through a dream. When Elizabeth finds the body, she cuts off his head and brings it back to her bedroom where she hides Lorenzo's head inside a pot of basil that she tends to every day.

In the seventh episode, the commoner Gemmata is deceived by a doctor into believing she can be turned into horse and then back into a human, so she can be used to sow the fields of her husband's farm. The ruse is that the doctor has manipulated the ritual so it enables him to have sex with the woman.

The eighth episode involves two characters from Naples who agree to tell each other about Paradise or Hell when they die. After a time, one of the two dies. But the other is terrified of ending up in the Underworld because he had too many sexual relations with his wife. One night he has a dream in which his friend tells him that he is in Limbo, and that sex is not a mortal sin as they had believed.

The final episode returns to the pupil of the painter Giotto, who has completed his fresco, on which the episodes of the film alternate harmoniously.

List of tales

  • Second day, fifth tale - A young boy from Perugia is swindled twice, but ends up becoming rich.
  • Third day, first tale - A man pretends to be a deaf-mute in a convent of curious nuns.
  • Seventh day, second tale - A woman must hide her lover when her husband comes home unexpectedly.
  • First day, first tale - A scoundrel fools a priest on his deathbed
  • Sixth day, fifth tale - A group of painters wait for inspiration.
  • Fifth day, fourth tale - A young girl sleeps on the roof to meet her boyfriend at night.
  • Fourth day, fifth tale - Three brothers take revenge on their sister's lover
  • Ninth day, tenth tale - A man tries to seduce the wife of his friend.
  • Seventh day, tenth tale - Two friends make a pact to find out what happens after death.


  • Franco Citti - Ciappelletto
  • Ninetto Davoli - Andreuccio of Perugia
  • Jovan Jovanovic - Rustico (scenes deleted)
  • Vincenzo Amato - Masetto of Lamporecchio
  • Angela Luce - Peronella
  • Giuseppe Zigaina - Monk
  • Gabriella Frankel
  • Vincenzo Cristo
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini - Allievo di Giotto (as P. P. Pasolini)
  • Giorgio Iovine
  • Salvatore Bilardo
  • Vincenzo Ferrigno - Giannello
  • Luigi Seraponte
  • Antonio Diddio
  • Mirella Catanesi


The film was the third most popular film in Italy in 1971 with 11,167,557 admissions[1] behind The Godfather and the Italian ...continuavano a chiamarlo Trinità. It was the 21st most popular film in Italy of all-time and is currently ranked 25th.[3]


  1. "La classifica dei film più visti di sempre al cinema in Italia". January 25, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  2. "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  3. "TOP250 tous les temps en Italie (Reprises incluses)". JP's Box-office. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
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