Poignant and beautiful historical drama about an Italian Jew
z hayes | TX | 01/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" is an Italian movie that is based on the autobiographical novel by Giorgio Bassino and tells the story of the narrator [Giorgio's] relationship with the Finzi-Continis in the northern Italian city of Ferrara. The film won a couple of awards, most notably, the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1971.
The story for the most part stays quite faithful to the novel and focuses on the relationship between Giorgio [Lino Capolicchio] and the Finzi-Continis, especially the two Finzi-Contini children, siblings Alberto [ Helmut Berger] and Micol [Dominique Sanda]. Giorgio is infatuated with Micol and believes himself genuinely in love with her. Micol on the other hand has this mysterious aura about her and seems almost melancholic for much of the movie [perhaps indicating a foreshadowing of her own future?] and rebuffs Giorgio's advances leaving him much frustrated but undaunted.
Amidst the personal drama, there is also the rising threat of Fascism, and from the beginning of the movie we know that the Jews already have strict impositions on their lives, not being able to play tennis in places designated for Aryans etc. The gardens that surround the Finzi-Continis' large estate provide a place for the youngsters to gather, but as the movie progresses, we come to realise that even the great wall that surrounds the estate does not provide refuge for its' occupants, especially after Mussolini allies himself with the Nazis and enters WW II.
The movie is very well-filmed, seeming almost surrealistic at times and ethereal in its beauty. Giorgio is caught between his innocent past [childhood] and the stark realities of his present. Micol seems to float through life, seeming detached and cold, almost as if she senses the tragedy that is about to befall her and her family.
All in all, this is a poignant period drama that chronicles the lives of Italian Jews under the menace of Fascism and Nazism and the eventual tragedy of the Holocaust.