‘IIn life, to truly understand the world, you must die at least once. So it is better to die young while there is time to recover and come back to life ”. The speaker is a middle-aged Italian-Jewish businessman of Ferrara who, in the early 1940s, tried to comfort his suffering son, Giorgio – who was rejected by a young woman, Micòl Finzi-Contini. . But these words have a terrible ironic meaning, for it was Mico, not Giorgio, who was taken with the rest of her Jewish family by the Nazis, and entrusted to the ally of Italy, Nazi Germany, for deportation to death camps.
Together, poor Giorgio and the impossibly subtle Micòl are non-lovers in Vittorio de Sica̵7;s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, his incredibly disturbing and mysterious 1970 film about doomed love and fascist terror. To mark the 50th anniversary of the film winning the Best Foreign Film Academy Award and the Golden Bear award at the Berlin film festival, the film will have a special screening at the Jewish film festival of the UK, accompanied by a Zoom discussions in which the French film star, Dominique Sanda, will participate.
Directed by the same director who worked on the Bicycle Thief, the film is an adaptation of Giorgio Bassani’s 1962 novel, about a 20-year-old man who is fascinated by Finzi-Continis: a family. Jews are extremely sophisticated and reputable and possessive. of a magnificent house with a magnificent walled garden. While all the other Jews were increasingly harassed and persecuted by the Nazis, the Finzi-Continis seemed indifferent, isolated by their wealth, and when the Jews were excluded. the city’s tennis club, this very family, with defiant politeness, invited young people to play tennis on the courtyard in their gardens – Jews, non-Jews, socialist, non-socialist. This invitation came from the beautiful daughter of the Micòl family (played by Sanda) and similarly beautiful, delicate brother (played by Austrian actor Helmut Berger). Alberto is friendly with leftist Malnate (Fabio Testi) handsome, crude, a frequent visitor to the garden. Malnate’s stubborn, stubborn demeanor seems to upset Micòl – or is she secretly attracted to him?
Poor Giorgio of course loves Micòl and her whole family deeply – like Charles Ryder with the Marchmain family in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. He is haunted by his childhood encounter with Micòl when they were both 10 years old, and she hauntedly beckons him into this Garden of Eden. For Giorgio, these memories, reproduced as subtle flashbacks in De Sica’s movies, are what expresses the purity and intensity of his affection for her. But to Micò they make him seem like a sweet brother, and his pain and despair unfold in parallel with the terrifying progress of Nazism – a The enormous historical force made these sensations irrelevant, but somehow intensified his trivial grief.
Meanwhile, its arctic-style garden and tennis games are like the Weimar Berlin pub in the Bob Fosse movie – a place supposedly resting after the horrors that surround it, or can be like Lido from Death in Venice, or even Prince Prospero’s disguise in The Masque of the Red Death. They are the places where you shouldn’t think about the disease coming.
De Sica’s film has changes compared to the novel. Bassani does not clearly describe the gruesome fate of the Finzi Contini family, while De Sica shows that they were taken away by the lavish secret police and even lured into the local classroom where Micòl studied as a child. a girl – another flashback scene. The novel only implies that there is a sexual connection between Micòl and Malnate; the film makes it clear and Bassani implies that there is a gay relationship between Alberto and Malnate, although De Sica and his two screenwriters, Vittorio Bonicelli and Ugo Pirro, do not insist on this point. Bassani has a wonderful passage in which Giorgio discusses the matter with the Malnates, who “like the truth. leave“Thinking that“ homosexuals are just ‘pitiful bastards’ … On the contrary, I think that love justifies and sanctifies everything, including homosexuality, and beyond: That love, when pure, has absolutely no material interests, is always unusual, antisocial. and so on, like art…
Malnate and Giorgio went to the movies together. In De Sica’s movie, they were watching a nasty piece of pro-Nazi news, and when Giorgio mocked the “clowns” in disgust on screen, a fascist audience blew. One punch and two men had to run out of cinema. In Bassani’s novel the scene has a similar ending, but with a more indirect opening: they will be shown “a German picture with Kristina Söderbaum” – Bassani does not specify which one but certainly this is only could be the infamous anti-epidemic propaganda film. Jew Süss, in which Söderbaum starred. (Söderbaum was a character hated by many for the rest of her life, but continued to work and her last role, a little odd, was a cameo in the movie Night Train to Venice in 1993, with the participation of Hugh Grant.)
The real star is the garden itself, captured in the dazzling light that marked many European cinematic backgrounds at that time, with exotic palm trees loved by Micòl and giant ancient airplane trees. she claims it was planted by Lucrezia Borgia. Here, Giorgio will kiss Micòl and sow his own terrible sorrow.