During the World War II eight Italian troops are stranded on a Greek island and find it to be something of a paradise.
Mediterraneo is an ironic, gently amusing charmer, even though its familiar anti-war elements jostle clumsily with its not entirely persuasive case for running away from real life's disappointments.
When a ragtag Italian troop of eight men and a donkey, sent to capture and occupy a remote Aegean isle in 1941, is cut off from Axis authority and all communication for the duration of the war, the hapless conquerors fall under the spell of the enchanting Greek inhabitants. Sex, drugs and bazouki music enhance their liberating idyll, with each of the eight misfits finding something he needs from the obligingly colourful, generous, wise or flagrantly uninhibited islanders.
The gentle lieutentant is put to work restoring the church frescoes, the peasant boys find a frolicsome shepherdess, the frustrated professional soldier discovers political philosophy and a flair for folk dancing, and there is even a perennial escapee, whose bordering-on-tragic antics seem at cross-purposes with the general conviviality.
At its least the film is a splendid advert for Greek island tourism, and even when director Gabriele Salvatores and writer Vincenzo Monteleone's ambitious hippy notions become muddled, there is a nicely wry and bittersweet tone. The affable ensemble playing is pleasing, too, if one can forgive some low-Continental buffoonery, with Diego Abatantuono most effective as the brutish sergeant in transition from thwarted combatant to politicised carer.
And based on a real story, it's less unlikely a parable than one might imagine
Gently amusing comedy with spectacular scenery.