|The Garden of the Finzi-Continis|
|Italian||Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini|
|Directed by||Vittorio De Sica|
|Screenplay by||Vittorio Bonicelli|
|Based on||The Garden of the Finzi-Continis|
by Giorgio Bassani
|Produced by||Arthur Cohn|
Gianni Hecht Lucari
|Edited by||Adriana Novelli|
|Music by||Manuel De Sica|
|Distributed by||Titanus (Italy)|
CCC-Filmkunst (West Germany)
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italian: Il giardino dei Finzi Contini) is a 1970 historical drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica. The screenplay by Ugo Pirro and Vittorio Bonicelli adapts Italian Jewish author Giorgio Bassani's 1962 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, about the lives of an upper-class Jewish family in Ferrara during the Fascist era. The film stars Lino Capolicchio, Dominique Sanda, Helmut Berger, Romolo Valli, and Fabio Testi in his breakthrough role.
An Italian production with West German financing, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was entered into the 21st Berlin International Film Festival and won the Golden Bear. It received positive acclaim from international critics, winning the 1972 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and earning a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film holds a 100% review score on Rotten Tomatoes.
In 1938 in Ferrara, the Finzi Contini are a rich Jewish family living in a mansion set in a park. When Jews are banned from the city's tennis club, the family allow the friends of their two children, Micòl and the sickly Alberto, to use their private tennis court. Among them are Giorgio, son of a Jewish businessman, and Giampiero, a communist and a gentile. Giorgio has been in love with Micòl since early adolescence, but she is ambivalent.
As war approaches, Giorgio's brother moves to France to pursue his studies while Giorgio, close to graduation, decides to stay in Ferrara and, when Jews are banned from the university library, the Finzi Contini allow him to use their private library. Micòl leaves to stay in Venice and on her return to Ferrara she definitively rejects Giorgio.
In 1940, when Italy enters the war, Giampiero is conscripted while Giorgio as a Jew is exempt. On his last night in Ferrara, Giampiero meets up with Giorgio and, when they part at midnight. Giorgio has an urge to see Micòl one more time. Climbing the wall of the Finzi Contini park, he notices a light in the garden hut and, looking in, sees a naked Micòl beside Giampiero.
In 1943, amid rumours of further measures against the Jews, Giorgio goes underground and the police arrest the whole Finzi Contini family, holding them with the other Jews of the city in a school. Micòl finds herself herded with her frail grandmother into the same classroom she attended as a child. There she sees Giorgio's father, who informs her that Giorgio has escaped and that Giampiero has died in Russia. The two embrace, their future as unclear as the fog hanging over the city.
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis marked the debut or near-debut for some of its stars, notably the actors who played the two adult Finzi-Contini children, Micòl and Alberto. For Dominique Sanda (Micòl), it was her first Italian feature film (followed by such films as The Conformist and 1900). For Helmut Berger (Alberto), it was his third feature film.
The director seriously considered entrusting the lead role to singer Patty Pravo, who had to refuse due to too many work commitments.
Contrary to Bassani's novel, the film directed by De Sica does not use the narrating ego technique, which for the novel is compared by the critics to the author himself. However, while following the director an entirely dialogative film narrative, the novelist's narrator coincides with the role of the protagonist Giorgio. Contrary to Bassani's novel, the film directed by De Sica ends with the episode of the deportation. In the novel, Giorgio, who fled abroad in time, will tell the story of his youth and his first impossible love, recalling the facts after 14 years.
Initially Giorgio Bassani cooperated in the drafting of the dialogues and the screenplay of the film but after some disagreements and misunderstandings, the writer and the director entered into open conflict (also due to the fact that in the film the relationship between Micòl and Malnate is made explicit, which is not present in the novel). Bassani asked and obtained that his name be removed from the credits of the film.
Villa Ada near Rome was used for the garden, while the Finzi Contini villa is the Litta Bolognini villa in Vedano al Lambro, a municipality in the Brianza area, adjacent to the Monza Park. The entrance to the garden in the film is really in Ferrara, in Corso Ercole I d'Este, near where Bassani had imagined it. The other exteriors were shot in Ferrara; noteworthy are the Estense castle and the city walls, the Palazzo dei Diamanti, the Cathedral of San Giorgio and also some famous streets.
In 1972, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. It won the Golden Bear at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival in 1971. It was De Sica's penultimate film.
The restored digital version, curated by the Istituto Luce Cinecittà and performed at the "Studio Cine" in Rome and "The rediscovered image" in Bologna, was presented in the spring of 2015.