No love story gets underway in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the 1971 Italian classic by Vittorio De Sica. In Ferrara, Italy of the late Thirties, a middle-class Jew named Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio) adores the wealthy Micol Finzi-Contini (Dominique Sanda), also a Jew but one belonging to a family that, as Giorgio’s father says, doesn’t “seem Jewish.” Micol is as unwilling to return Giorgio’s amatory love, perhaps because of her greater social status, as she is disinclined to worry about fascist anti-Semitism. Yet the anti-Semitism is serious. Indeed, an Italy driven by the actions of Hitler is plainly damning itself: the persecution of Jews precedes the waging of war. (Historical fact: after 1939, war did not go so well for Mussolini.)
The Finzi-Contini family fails to see that in fascist Italy all Jews are in the same boat. From Micol there is a kind of accommodation to anti-Semitic feeling via her faint depersonalization of Giorgio and her decision to sleep with a Gentile man she says she does not respect. Yet we have no contempt for Micol, or anyone else in the film. Garden is humanistic and compassionate.
(In Italian with English subtitles)