Tuesday, May 09, 2017
The Flowers of St. Francis
Based on the novels Little Flowers of St. Francis and The Life of Brother Juniper, Francesco, giullare di Dio (The Flowers of St. Francis) is a film featuring a series of stories about the life of St. Francis and his followers doing deeds in their journey. Directed by Roberto Rossellini and screenplay by Rossellini and Federico Fellini with contributions from Father Antonio Lisandrini and Father Felix Morlion, the film is an exploration of faith and spiritual enlightenment that follows the teachings of St. Francis and his own journey into his devotion to God. Starring Brother Nazario Gerardi, Brother Severino Pisacane, Esposito Bonaventura, Arabella Lemaitre, and Aldo Fabrizi. Francesco giullare di Dio is a majestic and touching film from Roberto Rossellini.
Set around the 12th/13th Century, the film follows the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi (Brother Nazario Gerardi) who walks around the world with his disciples as they would perform small miracles and such during the course of their time at a village where they build a home. Through a series of short segments and vignettes, the film showcases what St. Francis and some of his disciples would do to help spread their word of peace and generosity. The film’s screenplay opens with St. Francis and his disciples walking around the rain as they find shelter where they eventually build a small house for themselves at a village. The segments which are introduced with intertitle cards as it play into moments of St. Francis and his disciples doing whatever they can to help out people whether it’s St. Francis comforting a man with leprosy, the adventures of Brother Ginepro (Brother Severino Pisacane) in his attempt to do good deeds including meeting a noted tyrant (Aldo Fabrizi), and other moments to play involving St. Francis’ teachings.
Roberto Rossellini’s direction is very simple as he doesn’t really go for anything stylistic in its compositions in order to create something that does feel real. Shot on location at the Italian countryside near Rome and Bracciano, Rossellini chooses to shot in places where it does feel like a world that is very simple whether it’s people farming or doing things in the country life during this period between the end of the 12th Century and the early years of the 13th Century. While there are some wide shots of the locations, Rossellini would favor more intimate shots in close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the plight of St. Francis and his disciples as they try to help anyone or resolve some form of conflict that is looming nearby. Even as the film opens and closes with St. Francis and his disciples going into places to find a home base or something as it all play into everything St. Francis wants to do to help anyone and remain humble about it. Overall, Rossellini creates an engaging and mesmerizing film about a man and his followers trying to do what is good for the world and help people during troubled times.
Cinematographer Otello Martelli does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography from the naturalistic look of the daytime exterior scenes in the sun to the scenes set at night with its usage of artificial light for its interiors. Editor Jolanda Benvenuti does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some transition wipes for stylistic reasons. Production designer Virgilio Marchi and set decorator Giuseppe Rissone do fantastic work with the design of the hut that the monks live in as well as some of the interiors of the houses of some of the locals.
Costume designers Marina Arcangeli and Ditta Peruzzi does nice work with the costumes from the robes of St. Francis and his disciples to the clothes that the nuns wear as well as the locals. The sound work of Eraldo Giordani and Raffaele Del Monte do superb work with the sound as it is mostly straightforward to capture the natural aspects of the location. The film’s music by Renzo Rossellini, with liturgical music chants by Father Enrico Buondonno, is wonderful as its usage of organs and string instruments play into the drama while the music chants add a serene yet evocative quality to play into St. Francis’ plight.
The film’s incredible cast which largely consists of non-professional actors include some notable small roles from Brother Nazareno, Brother Raffaele, and Brother Robert Sorrentino as a trio of monks, Arabella Lemaitre as a visiting head nun in St. Claire, and Esposito Bonaventura as an old man named Giovanni who would be a follower of St. Francis. Aldo Fabrizi is excellent in a small role as a tyrant whom Brother Ginepro tries to reason with while Brother Severino Pisacane is brilliant as the young Brother Ginerpo as a young monk trying to whatever he can to help people as well as deal with humility. Finally, there’s Brother Nazario Gerardi in a tremendous performance as St. Francis of Assisi as a monk who travels around the world in the hopes to spread messages of peace, love, and generosity to the poorest parts of the world as he maintains his humility as well as being humble knowing that he’s just a servant of God.
Francesco, giullare di Dio is a sensational film from Roberto Rossellini. Featuring a rapturous story told through a series of segments as well as powerful themes on faith and humanity. The film is definitely one of Rossellini’s finest films as it has elements of neorealism but without a sense of cynicism. In the end, Francesco, giullare di Dio is a phenomenal film from Roberto Rossellini.
Roberto Rossellini Films: (La Vispa Teresa) - (Desiderio) - (Paisan) - (L’Amore-Il Miracolo) - Rome, Open City - (Germany, Year Zero) - Stromboli - (Medico Condotto) - (The Seven Deadly Sins-Envie, L’Envy) - Machine to Kill Bad People) - Europe '51 - (We, the Women-Ingrid Bergman) – Journey to Italy - Fear (1954 film) - (Giovanna d’Arco al rogo) - (General della Rovere) - (Escape by Night) - (Viva l’Italia!) - (Vanina Vanini) - (Benito Mussolini) - (Ro.Go.Pa.G.-Illbatezza) - (The Carabineers) - (Rice University) - (Anno uno)
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