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Italy 1970
Directed by
Vittorio de Sica
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Garden Of The Finzi Continis

Having made his name as a director with The Bicycle Thieves (1948) and a series of lauded neo-realist films through the 1950s, De SIca’s star waned through the ‘60s, Il Giardino dei Finzi Contini was a brief return to the A-list and his last major film (he died four year later aged 73).

Set in the years 1938 to 1943 the film is an elegiac portrait of the end of a golden era as the rise of Nazi/Fascist barbarism sweeps aside an aristocratic way of life for a wealthy and cultured Jewish family, the Finzi-Continis, living in Ferrara in Northern Italy

Based on Giorgio Bassani’s novel of the same name, the walled garden of the Finzi-Contini estate is a kind of Eden for middle-class Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio) where his out-of-reach love Micòl (Dominique Sanda) disports with her dashingly handsome brother, Alberto (Helmut Berger), and their privileged upper-class friends. Although Georgia and Micòl both are Jewish and have been close friends in childhood, now that they are young adults, she has other interests and is unwilling to become romantically involved  with the callow young hopeful.

De SIca achieves a rare balance between the specifics of the immediate story and the broader unfolding of historical events, focussing principally on the former and only alluding intermittently to the latter, events which of course are already well documented and represented here by the judicious use of newsreel footage. The result is that whilst we empathize with Giorgio’s romantic pain we know that a much greater will engulf it. In this respect the garden of the title is a kind of a doubly significant Paradise Lost, a condition which De Sica captures with poignancy.

Shot in seductively soft-focused pastels on location in Ferrara with a top drawer production design the film won Best Foreign Language Film at the 1972 Oscars.




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