"No Place To Hide"
THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS is a newly-restored re-release of the 1971 Academy Award winning masterpiece about the a wealthy Jewish family in Italy who find that despite their fenced-in estate they are in the same position as their less privileged neighbors as all Jews fall prey to Mussolini’s anti-Semitic regime. A lovely and lyrical film, this film is both poignant and chilling.
Even though this film was made in 1971 and received an Academy Award for best foreign movie, THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS has not lost its sad impact. Italian director Vittorio De Sica tells a nostalgic and painfully poignant tale of the Finzi-Continis family. Cultivated, cultured and courteous, they are a family of privilege and wealth. In their sprawling home of lush and exotic gardens, tennis courts and tall gates, the Finzis live in their own little world of luxury. They are seemingly untouched by the world outside their gates, as Mussolini’s anti-Semitic Fascist government starts between the years of 1938 to 1943 to spread its evil tentacles into every aspect of Jewish life in the town of Ferrara.
For their two beautiful children, the lovely Micol (Dominique Sandra) and the fragile Alberto (Helmut Berger), the Finzis courteously open their house to their children’s friends, among whom is included the earnest Giorgio , who has been under Micol’s spell since childhood. Giorgio represents middle-class Jewish Italians, who must suffer the harsh discrimination of Mussolini, barred from education and subject to all anti-Jewish laws. This and their vast difference in social standing poses problems for the couple. Giorgio seems to have the relationship in control, alternating between warm companionship and cold refusals of Micol’s tentative physical overtures. Giorgio is finally devastated by Micol’s affair with the Communist friend of her beloved brother.
As this human drama is being played out, the war against Jews begins to take on greater force. The Finzis begin to realize that their high gates and cultured ways do not make a difference to Mussolini. Their family of servants watch in sad dismay as the family is taken away by men from Mussolini, to be separated from each other and put in rooms that house groups of other Jews, awaiting their cruel intended fate.
A wonderfully photographed film, Vittorio De Sica contrasts brilliantly the apparent safety of the Finzis with the harsher reality outside the gates of their estate. Despite the civilized and generous courteousness they extend to the many friends of their children, their blindness to what is going on around them finally seals their fate. When they are apprehended, their shock is so dignified that it makes their fate even more outrageous. Separated, they can only give each other long, parting looks that make the film sadder than could any display of tears. This is a film that haunts with lyrical photography, but the almost surrealistic quality of the film does not take away the sadness of the story. The suffering is sensed more than seen, making the poignancy of THE GARDEN OF THE FINZIS-CONTINIS even more piercing.
With artful and exquisite images, the film nevertheless makes a strong sympathetic stand against Anti-Semitism, portraying these troubled families with pathos and compassion. There is no grand scheme nor plot to this film, just people caught in the angry anti-Jewish wave that hits the lovely town of Ferrara. There are a couple of sexual situations and a shot of full female nudity that could have been avoided, but otherwise the film is beautiful and gives an occasion to sadly ponder the ways of the ungodly.
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(B, H, L, S, NN, D, M) Moral worldview of the evils of national socialism set at the time of Mussolini’s anti-Semitic Fascist Government; 1 obscenity & 1 vulgarity; 2 implied sexual situations; partial & full female nudity; and, miscellaneous sexual immorality