The Law is a study in the social structure of a small fishing village in Italy in the 1950's. The loosely woven story revolves around three main patriarch figures. Illicit romance, infidelity, class structure, and tradition are all subtexts of the daily life of this post-war southern Italian town. Roger Vailland captures the chaotic personal dramas unfolding against the sleepy backdrop of small town life along the Mediterranean.
Don Cesare, Matteo Brigante, and Chief of Police Attilio represent the triumvirate of power in the city of Porto Manacore. Each man carries a degree of power over the town. Don Cesare is the wealthy, elder statesman. He is a lothario with women. His harem of women rotates over the course of time as he selects particular favorites from among old Julia, Marietta, Elvira, and Maria. Matteo Brigante is the town's criminal boss; a brutal rapist and knife fighter. He is a mean man who is feared and hated by most everyone. Police Chief Attilio is married to Anna and is also a serial philanderer. He is trying to find the thief who has stolen the wallet of a tourist full of money totaling a half million lire.
Matteo Brigante's son Francesco is running away with Donna Lucrezia, the wife of Judge Alessandro. Tonio the confidence man of Don Cesare is looking for respect and to make money. His wife is Maria, formerly of Don Cesare's harem, though he is sleeping with Marietta to the dismay of her mother and sisters. They want her to be matched with an agronomist so as to profit by way of gifts and money. Marietta is the one who has stolen the money and switches wallets with Matteo Brigante so that he is arrested.
Much of the delicate personal history is revealed during a drinking game called "the Law" in which participants spill the beans about the others past indescretions or those of their wives and family. This Italian "Peyton Place" has more plots, subplots, twists and turns throughout and requires paying close attention. Oddly enough, the immorality that is the way of life in Porto Manacore seems to trouble few of the town's inhabitants.
This report prepared by David Fletcher