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. Each film was an adaptation of a different piece of classical literature focusing on ribald and often irreligious themes.

Il Decameron
Il Decameron film poster
Directed byPier Paolo Pasolini
Produced byAlberto Grimaldi
Written byPier Paolo Pasolini (from Giovanni Boccaccio)
StarringFranco Citti
Ninetto Davoli
Vincenzo Amato
Angela Luce
Giuseppe Zigaina
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
West Germany
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]

Pasolini's intention was not to faithfully recreate the world of Boccaccio's characters but to criticize the contemporary world through metaphorical use of the themes present in the stories.[3] Stories are often changed to southern Italy and heavy use of the Neapolitan dialect is used to signify the mistreatment and economic exploitation of the poorer region by the richer northern parts of Italy.

Despite the success and critical acclaim of this movie, Pasolini was upset with the numerous low quality knock offs and remakes it generated. He considered these an affront to the anti-capital message of the movie and would disown this movie in his final days before dying.


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

The film begins with Ser Ciappelletto (who returns later in the film) committing a murder and hiding a dead body. The scene then transitions to the story of Andreuccio.

Andreuccio of Perugia: In the first episode (based on Second day, fifth tale), Andreuccio of Perugia has come to Naples to buy horses. A rich lady learns of this from one of her older servants and devises a trick to con him of his money. She invites him over to her home for supper under the pretext that they are long lost siblings. After supper they both retire to bed and Andreuccio gets into his nightshirt and puts his clothes and money on the bed. He then goes to use the restroom where he falls through a trap door and is dropped into a trough of excrement. The young man escapes and meets two thieves who are attempting a robbery at a nearby church to steal the jewels from the tomb of the Bishop Minutolo who died a few days earlier. Andreuccio is persuaded to participate and enters the tomb to steal the jewels. He finds the bishop's prized ring and keeps it for himself. He tells the others he couldn't find it and they know he is lying. They shut the door on him enclosing him in certain death. He screams out to no avail. Later, another group of robbers enter with the exact same plan of stealing the jewels from the tomb. Andreuccio hears this and lays in wait. The lead robber asks the other two to enter the tomb but they refuse. He calls them chicken and mocks them for being afraid. He tells them "dead men don't bite" when hearing this, Andreuccio pops up and bites the robber's leg. The three robbers run away in terror while Andreuccio jumps up out of the tomb afterward and prances away with his new ring.

Masetto da Lamporecchio: In the second episode (based on Third day, First tale), a young man, Masetto da Lamporecchio, is encouraged by a gardener to seek work at a local convent filled with many beautiful women. The young man gets the idea to pretended to be deaf and dumb to get inside as the abbess doesn't want handsome young men in the convent but will take exception for a deaf mute who she sees as non-threatening. He gets the job and while tending the garden two nuns decide to use him for sex because he can not rat on them. The other sisters watch this and get the idea to join in. The sisters prove insatiable, and the young man finally breaks his silence to protest to the abbess that he cannot keep up with their demands. The abbess declares his sudden ability to speak a miracle from God, but this is merely an excuse to keep the young man at the convent.

Peronella: In the third episode (based on Seventh day, second tale), the commoner Peronella makes a cuckold of her dimwitted husband Giannello. While she is having sex with her lover, Giannello unexpectedly comes home. Hearing the husband knocking, the other man hides in a large pot. Peronella opens the door and yells at Giannello for coming home so early from work. Giannello explains that it is the feast day of San Galeone so there was no work to be had. Instead he found a new buyer for the large pot they own (in which the lover is hiding still unbeknown to Giannello). Peronella devises a scheme to explain her lover in the pot and tells Giannello that she already has a buyer and that he is inspecting the pot. She tells him she sold it for seven denarii which is more than Giannello had sold it to his buyer. The husband accepts this and tells his buyer to leave as the pot is already sold. Giannello goes to the pot room where the hidden lover pops out and yells at him that the inside of the pot is dirty. The wife tells the husband to clean it before selling it. Giannello enters the pot and while he is inside the pot, his wife and her lover loudly and passionately have anal intercourse next to it. The wife points around at different spots of the jar and tells her husband to scrape them all good until he finds the "right spot." Her orders to clean the jar are the same as the directions for her lover to penetrate her anus. The husband however remains oblivious to this and laughs to himself.

Ser Ciappelletto of Prato: In the fourth episode (based on First day, first tale ), which begins in Prato, Ser Ciappelletto, a Neapolitan merchant, is sent to make a deal in Germany by his employer. For most of his life, he had devoted his soul to sin, seduction and profit, disregarding all moral and ethical values. He has committed blasphemy, forgery, murder, rape and is a homosexual. His employer wishes to send him to Germany where nobody knows of his vile ways. There he will meet up with two fellow Neapolitans who are usurers. That night, Ciappelletto has an ominous dream that he is being paraded around while wrapped in a burial shroud while around him friars and monks play volleyball with human skulls. He reaches Germany where he meets up with the two men. They happily sing together and drink wine but Ciappelletto falls down in a faint. God has punished him with a serious illness that forces him to his death bed. The two men are outraged because if they turn him out they will be seen as bad hosts but if his crimes are revealed in confession they will certainly draw negative attention. Ciappelletto devises a plan to confess and calls a monk to tell him several lies and half-truths that make him seem very pure, while pretending to cringe over venial sins. He tells the monk that he has never slept with a woman (leaving out that he is homosexual) which the monk sees as a very holy and righteous act as he is very handsome. He recalls to the monk that he once cursed his mother for spilling milk and has been tormented by that memory ever since. He also says he is ashamed of spitting in church once. The monk is amazed because he believes Ciappelleto is the most holy man he has ever given confession to. Ciappelleto dies and due to these lies, the people consider him a holy man. After his death, Ciappelletto is revered as a saint. The monk delivers a eulogy to "Saint Ciappelletto" and urges everyone in attendance to take heed and remember his holy actions. He says they should all aim to live as he did. After the eulogy, many poor, disabled and sick people enter the room where Saint Ciappelletto is kept and touch his body in praise. The two Neapolitans look at each other in amazement that his plan worked.

Giotto's Pupil: In a brief intermission (based on Sixth day, fifth tale) a pupil of the great painter Giotto is on his way to paint the Basilica of Santa Chiara with his companion Messer Forese da Rabatta. The cart he is in is stopped by the rain and they take cover with a toothless farmer nearby named Gennari who gives the passengers clothes. The pupil of Giotto and da Rabatta arrive at the church while dressed in these tattered outfits. The two begin painting the basilica's walls after watching passersby in a market for visual inspiration. He spots some market-goers who will serve as the actors in the next segment about Caterina and Ricciardo. The other stories of the film continue afterwards.

Caterina di Valbona and Riccardo : In the fifth episode (based on Fifth day, Fourth tale), a young woman from Valbona (a town near Naples) named Caterina has fallen in love with a young boy named Ricciardo while playing hide and seek. She is afraid of telling her father as she believes he may be angered. She devises a ruse where she will stay with her lover overnight on a terrace to make love without her parents' knowledge. She tells her mother that the inside of the house is much too warm for her and that she wants to stay outside so she may hear the nightingale sing in the morning. Her parents set up a makeshift bed for her outside where she awaits for Ricciardo. He scales the wall of her house and makes love to her in the makeshift bed. The next morning the girl's father goes outside to find the two lovers sleeping naked, while she is holding his genitals. He runs inside to get his wife telling her that their daughter "caught the nightingale in her hands!" The mother rushes outside to see what the commotion is about and is about to scream when she sees the naked pair. The father covers her mouth and explains that the boy is a good match, as his marriage would earn a significant amount of money through dowry and it would improve their social standing. The father wakes the pair up and tells Ricciardo that the only way he will leave the house alive is if he marries his daughter. Ricciardo agrees and everyone is happy. The father gives Ricciardo a ring and Caterina is married to him right there.

Elizabeth of Messina and Lorenzo the Sicilian: In the sixth episode (based on Fourth day, Fifth tale), set in Messina, a girl, Elizabeth, attractive and possessing great wealth, falls in love with Lorenzo, a young Sicilian employee of her brothers. However, her brothers discover their love and become furious. They invite Lorenzo to their private garden under the pretenses of having lunch but then stab him in the back with a dagger in order to save their family's honour. They bury Lorenzo's body in the garden. They return to Elizabeth and say that Lorenzo is away on business. Elizabeth spends nights crying over him after which his ghost appears to her in a dream and tells her that he was killed and buried in the family's garden. The next day, Elizabeth asks for permission to go the garden and the brothers give it to her, not suspecting her to know that Lorenzo was killed and buried there. Elizabeth goes to the garden and when she finds the body, she cuts off Lorenzo's head and brings it back to her bedroom. She hides it inside a pot of basil, which she tends to every day.

Gemmata: 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 spell is a ruse: the doctor has imagined a ritual to enable him to have sex with the woman, in full view of her husband.

Heaven and Hell: The eighth episode (based on Seventh day, tenth tale) involves two characters from Naples named Meuccio and Tingoccio who agree to tell each other about Heaven or Hell when they die. After a time, Tingoccio dies. Meuccio is afraid for his soul because he had sex out of wedlock with his girlfriend so many times. One night he has a dream in which his friend tells him that he is in Limbo, and though the angels knew of all his sins they do not consider sex a mortal sin as they had believed. Meuccio runs through the streets to his girlfriend and screams to her "it is not a sin!"

Epilogue: The final scene returns to the pupil of the painter Giotto, who has completed his fresco, which illustrates episodes of the film. In the final scene, he marvels over his work and says to himself "Why complete a work when it is so much better just to dream it?"

List of talesEdit

  • 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
  • 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.
  • Sixth day, fifth tale - Two painters are stopped in the rain and are given new clothes.
  • Third day, tenth tale - In Tunisia a princess escapes into the wilderness where a monk tricks her into sleeping with him. (This scene was removed and is now presumed lost).
  • Fourth day, eight tale - a man goes on a journey to Paris and returns to his hometown to find the woman he loves married. He dies of grief. She sees this and then lays by his side and dies too. (This scene was removed and is now presumed lost).


  • Franco Citti - Ciappelletto
  • Ninetto Davoli - Andreuccio of Perugia
  • Jovan Jovanovic - Rustico (scenes deleted)
  • Vincenzo Amato - Masetto of Lamporecchio
  • Angela Luce - Peronella
  • Giuseppe Zigaina - German monk
  • Maria Gabriella Maione - Madonna Fiordaliso
  • Giacomo Rizzo - friend of Giotto's pupil
  • 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

Filming locationsEdit


The score was compiled by Ennio Morricone. It is composed mainly of authentic Neapolitan folk songs. The song Canto Delle Lavandaie Del Vomero is sung during Andreuccio's tale.

Deleted scenesEdit

Two scenes were deleted from the film. The story of Girolamo and Salvestra and the story of Rustico and Alibech. Pasolini removed Girolamo because he felt it was a weaker story and he removed Alibech because he wanted to save the Yemen scenery as a surprise for his later film Arabian Nights, the third film in his Trilogy of Life. Despite much searching by Laura Betti neither have turned up though the Alibech scene still survives on the script and has been recreated using stills from the film. This recreation is available for viewing in the documentary The Lost Body of Alibech.

In Gafsa, the princess Alibech lives with her family in contentment. She is interested in learning about Christianity though her Muslim family try to dissuade her from this. She goes off into the Sahara desert to learn from the desert fathers. She meets two monks who tell her to continue on. She meets a third monk named Rustico and stays with him. He is very aroused by her and tells her that his penis is the Devil and her vagina is Hell and that the Devil must be sent back to Hell by God's own order until "the pride vanishes from his head." They do this six times. Alibech is very interested in continuing with this while Rustico is tired out. Meanwhile, in Gafsa, Alibech's family die in a fire so the warlord Neerbale rides out into the desert with his men to retrieve Alibech and bring her home in safety. They take her away much to Rustico's chagrin. Back in Gafsa, Alibech is bathing. She tells her female servants that it was wrong for Neerbale to steal her away when she was learning about the Christian God and doing such great things as sending the Devil to Hell. They ask her what she means and she explains. They laugh and tell her that Neerbale will do that with her too so she must'nt worry.


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.[5]


  1. ^ a b "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. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "TOP250 tous les temps en Italie (Reprises incluses)". JP's Box-office. Retrieved October 4, 2019.

External linksEdit