should we watch this historical drama, Oscar for best foreign film?

Tonight, the Arte channel is broadcasting The Finzi-Contini garden, directed by Vittorio de Sica, winner of the Oscar for best foreign film in 1970. Has this historical drama aged well? Should we watch?

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The Finzi-Contini garden of Vittorio de Sica (this evening on Arte) tells, in Italy in 1938, the story of the Finzi-Contini, who live in a magnificent estate, surrounded by a huge park. As the first racial laws prohibited Jews from joining clubs, they invited some of the youth of the surrounding area to meet at home and enjoy their tennis court. Georgio is one of the boys enjoying the garden. From an early age, he was in love with Micòl, the Finzi-Contini’s daughter, played by the Frenchwoman Dominique Sanda. If the latter likes to seduce, she is also elusive. Alberto, his brother in fragile health, sympathizes with Malnate, a communist sympathizer. Time passes. The situation is more and more complicated for the Jews in Benito Mussolini’s Italy…

Splendor and decadence

When The Finzi-Contini garden of Vittorio de Sica begins, the spectators discover the famous park at the same time as a good part of the characters, who go there for the first time. And it’s beautiful. In a soft light, the Italian director who rose to fame with The bicycle thief reconstructs an evanescent world, full of sweetness and in which it is good to live. A universe that announces the aesthetics and imagination of Sofia Coppola’s cinema. In addition, the narration mixes the eras with the greatest chic, telling in parallel how Giogio and Micòl met and how the young man is, years later, still totally under the spell of his friend. With its mastered direction and its chic camera movements, the beginning of the Garden of the Finzi-Contini is a splendor that has something magical about it. But the great wind of history is blowing…

Facing History

But what is really filming Vittorio de Sica in The Finzi-Contini garden, Golden Bear in Berlin and Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, it’s the end of a world. The Jews in the film are not all as wealthy as the Finzi-Contini. But they all finance the Fascist party, either because they believe in the program announced for Italy, or because they hope thus to shelter themselves from the anti-Semitic danger. They are in reality totally powerless in the face of discrimination. And even the high walls of the domain will soon no longer be able to protect them and cut them off from the horrible reality of the world. The further the film progresses, the more the emotion of the inevitable is felt. And the last images, which return to fleeting and innocent moments of happiness, are overwhelming.

A film to see on arte.tv until August 2, 2022.

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