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DVD Review

DVD cover

Swept Away (2002)
(2019 Reissue)


Starring: Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Bruce Greenwood, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Elizabeth Banks
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £9.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 08 April 2019

Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises have released Swept Away on Blu-ray for the first time as well as reissuing it on DVD. Madonna and Adriano Giannini star in this contemporary adaptation of Lina Wertmullers's 1974 romantic comedy, a story of love, sex and too much money - all set against the backdrop of a Mediterranean island paradise. A rich, spoiled socialite and a handsome Italian fisherman find themselves stranded on a deserted island where matters of material wealth and class disparity are meaningless. And in their struggle to survive and coexist in their paradise found, they soon discover that their dramatic differences are suddenly the source of a fierce, passionate and (sometimes) hilarious animal attraction...

Swept Away won several accolades at the 2002 Golden Raspberry Awards, winning Worst Picture, Worst Actress – Madonna, Worst Screen Couple - Madonna and Giannini. Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Director - Guy Ritchie.

The original Swept Away was a 1974 Italian film directed by Lina Wertmüller, which received the 1975 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Award for Top Foreign Film. When Wertmüller saw this re-make, it is alleged that she left the theatre at the end crying out: "What did they do to my movie? Why [did] they do this?"

The biggest trouble with Swept Away is that Guy Ritchie's direction is frankly... er... directionless. What ends up being a dog's dinner of a movie could so easily have been saved.

The film starts off like a Goldie Hawn comedy (with Madonna filling in for Hawn). If Ritchie had toned down Amber Leighton's (Madonna) bitchiness and upped Giuseppe Esposito's (Adriano Giannini) frustration with more of a comedy styling, then when the two are stranded the romance could have developed a little more believably. But the switch of characters sees Giuseppe become a nasty piece of work, beating Amber and practically attempting to rape her, which means that when she becomes a submissive woman it all feels so pathetically contrived and extremely sexist. It's as though the message is "every powerful woman just wants to be controlled by a dominant man".

Yes, I get what was attempted here. In every one of us that small child is still alive and full of the same doubts and fears. The stronger and more confident the adult is usually means that a harder childhood was had. So, Amber's submission to Giuseppe's primitive man is not designed to be sexist, but rather her giving into that small child that wants to be protected. It works just the same for men who had strong mother figures... Amber's world revolved around money calling the shots. Giuseppe's world revolves around living off the land and providing for himself. So when they are trapped in an environment where money means nothing roles are reversed and Giuseppe becomes the master.

From the moment that Giuseppe starts to be mean the audiences loses all empathy with him. He is not a million miles away from the Amber character that he so despised at the start of the movie. Now he is in the driving seat he's actually a much more dangerous bully. But the original '70s movie was similar in style.

Madonna's acting was singled out as being one of the movie's major failings in reviews at the time of the film's release. To be perfectly fair I think that's a little harsh. The only time Madonna's acting feels a little wooden is when Ritchie's direction lets her down. I've seen enough Behind the Scenes documentaries in my time to know that even the greatest of actors can deliver awful performances if the camera doesn't cut away at the right time. Madonna's acting is not to blame. That responsibility lies with both the director and editor. When the film opens, Madonna's bitchy performance is believable (even if, as I mentioned previously, it should have been toned down), her comedy timing is also pretty good. And the scene where she is forced to sing and dance (badly) for her supper shows her in a vulnerable and uncomfortable light - not something you'd think a world renowned singer would feel comfortable doing.

So basically, if the comedy element had been played on a little more and Giuseppe character had not suddenly become a total bast*rd... then this film would have been a lot more focused than it was. The comedy elements should have been exploited more and the attempted rape and slapping scenes should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Extras include an audio commentary with the director and producer; Making of Swept Away (19 min, 55 sec behind the scenes which sees Madonna and Ritchie interviewing each other. What's interesting here is that Madonna comes across as a fun loving, down to earth person, whereas as Ritchie appears so dry that I wasn't sure whether he was humourless or not); Deleted Scenes (14 min, 06 sec - 8 scenes with or without audio commentary from the director and producer - who weren't really prepared as they were asked on the spot after recording the audio commentary.

There's one deleted scene that should have been kept in, because with it missing there's now a scene in the movie that makes little sense (when Madonna flips out because Giuseppe is wearing an offensive T-Shirt).

It's such a shame because this is close to being a good film if the direction had been mapped out a little better from the start.


Darren Rea

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