Don’t Forget “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis”

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970), by Vittorio De Sica, begins with a title sequence whose garden imagery is not quite as colorful as it is flat and alienating. The sunlight in the film is nice, yes, but how many sunny days are ahead? From a novel by Giorgio Bassani, this is the one about a rich Jewish family, the Finzi-Continis, which lives in Ferrara, Italy and is oblivious to what is happening in their homeland under Mussolini. And there is also a middle-class Jewish family the head of which nurtures a disdain for the Finzi-Continis which would be more properly directed at the Italian fascists he supports—the fascists allied with the Nazis.

One of the middle-class Jews, the young man Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio), loves beautiful Micol (Dominique Sanda), one of the Finzi-Continis. Loves her to no avail. Micol’s dismissal of a worthy fellow Jew suggests the blindness of the rich and comfortable who are imperiled by the active goons. The young woman is callous, notwithstanding the shots of her under-the-blouse assets are, I’m afraid, gratuitous. . . Garden, even so, is a serious work of anguish. It has a lot to do with layers of political naivete—like what we see today. One should be honest, though: the content is even more appalling than De Sica’s good movie lets on.

(In Italian with English subtitles)

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