Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 9th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1970
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Writers: Vittorio Bonicelli, Ugo Pirro, Franco Brusati, Vittorio De Sica, Alain Katz, Tullio Pinelli, Cesare Zavattini, Valerio Zurlini
Cast: Lino Capolicchio, Dominique Sanda, Fabio Testi, Romolo Valli, Helmut Berger
DVD released: August 8th, 2011
Approximate running time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £11.99
The plot revolves around Giorgio, a middle class Jew and his unrequited love for his childhood friend Micol, who’s aristocratic Jewish family live isolated within the walls of their idyllic estate. Of course this in not your atypical love story, the events which unfold during this film take place during the beginning of World War II. Also during this time in Italy fascism and Antisemitism was on the rise.
The Garden of the Finzi Contini was co-written and directed by Vittorio De Sica, who is most known for being one of the forerunners of Italian Neorealism. Some of his more notable film’s include Shoeshine, Umberto D. and Bicycle Thieves. The screenplay for The Garden of the Finzi Contini was adapted from Giorgio Bassani’s novel of the same name. The cinematographer on The Garden of the Finzi Contini was Ennio Guarnieri, who’s other notable films include Camille 2000, A Brief Vacation, The Visitor and Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot. The score for The Garden of the Finzi Contini was composed by Vittorio De Sica’s son Manuel , who’s other notable score’s include, A Brief Vacation, The Voyage and Cemetery Man.
By the time that Vittorio De Sica directed The Garden of the Finzi Contini, he had long distanced himself from the Neorealism films that had originally made him a house hold name. After Umberto D., he would shift away Neorealism cinema and often take on more lighter far films, mostly within comedy genre. One of these film’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, would win an academy award for Best Foreign Language Film. And while many of his post Umberto D. film’s often lacked the substance of his Neorealism films. One film in particular during this stretch of his career echoed many of the themes that are prominent in his best known films, that film was Two Women. As the 1960’s came to a close it would appear that Vittorio De Sica would never reach the heights that he had once obtained as a filmmaker. This brings us to The Garden of the Finzi Contini, a film that is arguably one of Vittorio De Sica’s greatest achievements as a filmmaker and it is without a doubt one of cinema’s greatest resurrections of a filmmaker, who’s career appeared to be in cruise control and on life support.
Structurally, though the film is told in a straight forward manner. There are a handful of flashback’s which are employed to give the story and its characters a deeper subtext. Nothing in this film is done haphazardly and each moment has been meticulously laid out in such a way that they have a profound effect on the viewer.
Though this film can primarily be seen as a love story. There are many other themes that are explored with precise clarity, like the dangers of Fascism, the loss of innocence, isolation and racism, just to a name of the more prominent themes explored in this film.
Visually the film cinematography perfectly complements the melancholy tone to the story at hand. A few of this film’s more memorable moments visually include a scene in which Giorgio watches Micol, who has just recently rejected his love, while she is having sex with another man. And what makes this moment all the more powerful is how it becomes apparent that she sees him watching her just outside the window and her eyes give off a piercing icy cold vibe that one is not soon to forget. Another memorable moment that resonates long after the film’s final frames have faded off the screen. Is the film’s haunting finale that through a montage of images wraps up the fate of all the characters in this film.
When discussing this film one must not overlook or undervalue the performances of the cast, who are all exceptional in their respective roles. With this film’s most memorable performance coming from Dominique Sanda (The Conformist, 1900) in the role of Micol. Her performance all the more impressive when you take into account that she portrays one of the more unsympathetic characters in the film and her rejecting of Giorgio (this film’s most endearing) only furthers drives a wedge between her character and the audience. Another performance of note is Helmut Berger (The Damned, Salon Kitty) in the role of Micol’s affection starved brother.
Note: This review is based on a screener and may not be representative of the final product.
Arrow Academy presents The Garden of the Finzi Contini in a anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. The source used is in very good shape, colors look nicely saturated and flesh tones look healthy. Details generally look crisp and there are no problems with compression. It should be note that grain is more pronounced in some scenes that in other scenes.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian. The audio sounds clear and balanced throughout. There are no problems with distortion or background noise. Also Included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 44 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), three interviews, the first interview with Vittorio De Sica son Manuel, who was also the composer of this film’s score (9 minutes 14 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles), the second interview with actor Lino Capolicchio (12 minutes 57 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles) and the third interview with screenwriter Ugo Pirro (13 minutes 9 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles). The interview with Manuel D Sica covers the film’s score and how his father didn’t interfere with his choices for the score. The other two interviews also feature Manuel De Sica, who asks the two participants questions about this production. Topics covered in Lino Capolicchio, how he got cast in the role of this film’s protagonist, his connection to Giorgio Bassani, the author of the novel which this film was adapted form and working with Vittorio De Sica. Topics covered in Ugo Pirro’s interview include, his involvement in the evolution of the screenplay – including several rewrites and the differences between the novel and the film. Also included with this release is a booklet with a new essay about the film that was written by Christopher Wagstaff, new translations of screenwriter Ugo Pirro and composer Manuel De Sica’s comments on the making of this film, as well as a contemporary interview with De Sica. Overall The Garden of the Finzi Contini gets a strong release from Arrow Academy.