5
votes

I've seen this movie at a film festival about 10 years ago, maybe a bit less. It was a European movie (non English), probably joint production - something like Italian-French, or Spanish-French, or similar.

The movie is set in 18th century Italy or Spain. The heroine is from a wealthy, very traditional Catholic family. When we first see her, she is a teenager, almost a child. She is mute. Her family and everybody around treat her as if she is somehow an outcast. At first we don't know if its because of her muteness or something else.

One day she is introduced to her relative, decades older then her. She is told that this is her future husband. She is horrified, but despite her protests, they are married very quickly. On their wedding night, he rapes her. They live together, and it quickly becomes apparent that her husband has a very unhealthy obsession with her. He continues to force sex on her; she hates it but can do nothing to stop him. They have children. One night she gathers courage and refuses him sex. Surprisingly, it actually works. It seems that all the time he had a delusion that she somehow loved/wanted him. Soon afterwards he dies (there is a very creepy scene, where he talks to a goat explaining how his mother abused him as a child, then strangles the goat. Then he has a stroke or something).

Now the heroine is a widow. She also bloomed into a great beauty. A new man appears in her life - I don't remember exactly how, maybe as a tutor to her children. He is a foreigner, probably French. He is an intellectual and introduces her to new Enlightenment ideas. Most importantly, he tells her about a new invention - sign language. They quickly form an intellectual friendship, and it's obvious there is mutual attraction as well, but our heroine is still sexually repressed, and their social positions make everything awkward. He leaves, but they continue to correspond.

Our heroine hires a new servant, and he is very handsome. Now for the first time she has a sexual awakening. She is very strongly attracted to her servant, but it's purely physical. He pursues her and tries to seduce her. She resists, although she is very tempted. Her maid also falls madly in love with the servant, so now we have a love triangle. In a fit of jealousy, her maid tries to kill the servant. The maid is seized by authorities and sent to lunatic asylum. Some time later our heroine visits her. She finds her former maid horribly mistreated and abused, so she gets her out.

I don't remember much after this, except for the ending. The heroine finally learns - or remembers - the reason for her muteness, and why she was married off like this. Turns out, she was raped as a child by the same relative who later became her husband. She was so traumatized that went mute. She also had an amnesia and forgot what happened. Her family considered all this a great shame, so they made a secret deal with her rapist to marry her to him as soon as she reaches puberty.

After she learns all this, she has an emotional crisis. She looks at herself in a mirror and desperately tries to talk, but makes only disjointed sounds. Finally, she decides to turn her life around completely. She writes to her friend that she is taking a trip abroad and plans to visit him. At the end, we see her leaving in a carriage.

The whole movie is beautifully made, with rich visuals, a lot of historical details, dresses, houses etc.

closed as off-topic by JNat Jan 19 '18 at 13:17

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3
votes

You're looking for Marianna Ucria from 1997. It was based on the novel La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa (AKA The Silent Duchess).

Sicily 18th century, Marianna Ucria is a 12-year-old deaf-mute from an aristocratic family of Palermo. Aged 13, she is married to a middle-aged uncle, Duca Pietro. She is repulsed by him, but at 16 years she already gives him three daughters. During her 20s she is instructed by a French tutor, which teaches her philosophy and all the new ideas that tour around Europe. She also has to manage, after Pietro's death, a relationship with her servant's brother (and following scandal). In her mature age she finally discovers and understands the terrible secret behind his handicap.

Pretty much everything you wrote is there. A very well-written question. Here's the trailer:

  • Yes!!! This is it! Thank you so much! I remembered this movie so well, but could not for the life of me remember the title! Turned out, my keyword search on imdb didn't work because I kept choosing wrong keywords (does anyone else feel that there are too many keywords on imdb? ;)). – ginger Feb 1 '16 at 6:50

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