The key 1983

The key 1983

Title: The Key
Also Known As: La Chiave
Year: 1983
Directed by: Tinto Brass
Country: Italy


Frank Finlay … Nino Rolfe
Stefania Sandrelli … Teresa Rolfe
Franco Branciaroli … Laszlo Apony
Barbara Cupisti … Lisa Rolfe
Maria Grazia Bon … Giulietta
Gino Cavalieri … Don Rusetto
Piero Bortoluzzi … Memo Longobardi
Irma Veithen … L’infirmière
Milly Corinaldi … Giustina
Giovanni Michelagnoli … Dr. Fano


A husband and wife lock their diaries in a drawer and also know that they read each other’s entries, a device which takes them from one sexual encounter to another.

English actor, Frank Finley plays Nino Rolfe, a middle-aged art expert whose enthusiasm for his marriage, and especially his sex life, is waning. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the couple have lost their passion, but the sparks begin to fly when Nino discovers that his much younger wife, Therese (Stefania Sandrelli—Stealing Beauty) is attracted to their daughter’s fiancé, Laszlo, played by Brass staple, Franco Branciaroli. Finding his jealousy arousing, Nino sets out to encourage his wife’s infidelity. After writing a journal entry criticizing their lackluster sex life, he makes sure the key will be found by his spouse. While uncertain she has read the entries, he also borrows Laszlo’s state-of-the-art camera to take erotic photos of his wife, after drugging her. In an act of faux discretion, he asks Laszlo to develop the pictures, enticing the young man with his wife’s images. When Therese finds out about Laszlo seeing the photos, it ignites both their desires, and she embarks on a torrid love affair, all the while describing her encounters in the diary her husband is now secretly reading. Nino’s ploy appears to be paying off with his wife’s new found enthusiasm for sexual adventure, but her appetite will have dire consequences.

Voluptuous Stefania Sandrelli commands the screen with her daunting womanhood, but Franco Branciaroli is much less effective as her suitor. Finlay carries his starring role well, having no problem portraying a kinky, aging lecher. The period setting and Ennio Morricone’s upbeat score keep the mood light and playful. Filled with nudity and sexuality, and breaking taboos left and right, Brass challenges his audience, not only by involving a mother with her daughter’s future husband, but also with the elder male relentlessly taking advantage of his wife while she is either drugged or asleep. As such, while his sense for eroticism is carried off well, many of the plot points may not be acceptable to many audiences. The story has its comedic merits, enforced by fast motion sequences or slapstick trappings, and the adaptation attempts to draw parallels between the burgeoning fascist movement and the couple’s none too discreet fetishes and infidelities. As with most of Brass’ work, the cinematography and style is carried out with artistic flair; however his obsession with the female posterior is readily evident.

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