Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni were two of the most iconic and best-loved actors in Italian cinema history. They did the vast majority of their best work within European cinema. Mastroianni most notably for 8 ½, La Dolce Vita and La Notte. Loren for Two Women, El CID and A Special Day. Indeed, the pair come together and give two of their best performances in the Oscar nominated A Special Day. A film where the background and the foreground change places.

It’s 8 May 1938 and Adolf Hitler is in Rome to visit Benito Mussolini. Whilst her patriotic husband (John Vernon) and six children go out to celebrate the visit, it’s just a normal day stuck indoors doing housework for Antionetta (Loren). She meets Gabriele (Mastroianni), a mysterious and charming neighbour, by chance. Despite being opposites the pair begin to warm to each other, but Gabriele is not the kind of man Antionetta is accustomed to.

A Special Day manages to pull off a feat that only great movies achieve. It sets up the viewer to expect one thing, whilst in fact it eludes to something else entirely. Whilst Hitler’s visit is always in the background, all the drama takes place within the intercourse between Antionetta and Gabriele. The leads deliver brilliant performances and director Ettore Scola uses them to play out a much larger dialogue. A Special Day is one of Italy’s greatest films and stars two of the country’s screen icons.

A Special Day is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Cult Films on Monday.