La grande guerra (1959)


Comedy | Drama | War


Mario Monicelli


Italy | France


Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, Silvana Mangano, Folco Lulli, Bernard Blier, Romolo Valli, Vittorio Sanipoli, Nicola Arigliano, Geronimo Meynier, Mario Valdemarin, Elsa Vazzoler, Tiberio Murgia, Livio Lorenzon, Ferruccio Amendola, Gianni Baghino, Carlo D'Angelo, Achille Compagnoni, Luigi Fainelli, Marcello Giorda, Tiberio Mitri, GĂ©rard Herter, Guido Celano


Italy, 1916. After both trying in every way to avoid serving the army, slackers Oreste Jacovacci (Alberto Sordi) and Giovanni Busacca (Vittorio Gassman) are called to serve the army in WWI. 


The Italians, unlike many others, don't have a problem making fun of themselves and serious matters. Then there I am, the atypical Italian, who, perhaps because of my partly German heritage, don't feel like making fun of important matters, but can't help but be delighted by those kind of films when they have the right combination of irony, satire and drama, and Mario Monicelli's "La grande guerra" is one of those.

A wonderful combination of comedy and tragedy, the film is an ironic and poignant portrait of life in the trenches on the Italian front of World War I.

Through the simple and touching stories of the characters, that intertwined because of the war, Mario Monicelli manages to engage and move yesterday, today and tomorrow's audience, and makes you reflect on the horrors of the Great War by describing its stupidity and futility. Not only does he highlight what a terrible thing war is, but makes you realize that it's done by ordinary people, their defects (pettiness and fake heroism) and their merits (courage and generosity), and that are the poorest, peasants in this case, to suffer the most. 

This Italian-Style comedy, written by Age & Scarpelli, Monicelli and Luciano Vincenzoni, is not just about the Great War but it also is a wonderful story of friendship. Since they first met, one can sense that the two main characters won't only share an "adventure" but also become great friends, despite everything.

"La grande guerra" also brings to the screen some flaws of the Italians, commonplaces indeed but with a kernel of truth. Among cunning and recommendations, Giovanni Busacca and Oreste Jacovacci stand out, two slackers overwhelmed by a terrible event to which they absolutely don't want to participate. Both cowards, they differ in their death: Busacca redeems himself dying as a hero, Jacovacci instead dies a coward as he pronounces his last sentence "Io non so niente! Se lo sapessi, ve lo direi! Io so un vijacco, lo sanno tutti!//I don't know it anything! If I knew it, I would tell! I'm a coward, everyone knows that!" 

Lastly, the actors. Monicelli would never have done such a great film without great actors. Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi are a wonderful pair, and do a great job in their role of Giovanni Busacca and Oreste Jacovacci.


  1. This sounds like a great movie! I wish I could see it but I don't have Netflix. You do give great reviews