Vittorio De Sica and I have a bit of a frustrating relationship. His debut film The Bicycle Thief was one of the first films I reviewed for this blog, and while I liked it for various reasons, I could tell from it that Italian neorealism wasn’t going to be my sort of film. I had a similar reaction to his follow-up, Umberto D; both films were incredibly sad in nature, and it was only my piddling interest in neorealism that kept me from truly being affected by it. Now, the list jumps forward to the end of his career with his penultimate film, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, and it seems De Sica has undergone an evolution in his filmmaking technique and style. This isn’t nearly as morose and depressing as his earlier works (at least most of the time), and the neorealism aspects of his filmmaking have all but disappeared.
Again, contrary to his early work, this is a period piece of relative high society in the era of the immediate pre-WWII. The Finzi-Continis are a well-off Jewish family living in Italy, and as per the title of the film, the story primarily revolves around the garden of their estate, in which the two young Finzi-Contini socialites often invite their group of friends for tennis and cavorting and whatnot. Of course, eventually, the casualties of wartime life begin to take their toll on the family and their friends, and the film ends a lot worse off than it begins. I wasn’t a fan of the script; it was extremely blocky, extremely telegraphed. Every move it made was perfectly choreographed, and you could too easily tell; it didn’t flow at all, and that didn’t help immerse me in the film any more than it did. The story was okay, though if you’re expecting a happy ending in a Vittorio De Sica film, you might be a tad misinformed, even with everything up to then being relatively carefree. And oh yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with annoyingly obvious overdubbing, but it’s here, so heads up.
There’s a lot to the juxtaposition of the idyllic life within the walls of the estate and the growing hell that was the world outside of it, and how the outside world begins to encroach upon the idyllic world of the garden is the primary tale to be told here. Now, of course, besides the specifics, this isn’t exactly a story you’ve never seen before, and to be frank, just because the film has a crushing ending shouldn’t automatically put it on the list, especially with so many other films that offer the same thing. But, for what it’s worth, I didn’t hate this. I don’t know if I’d say I liked it, but it was a pretty easy watch, and for me, that’s something. Just know that, after all, this is a Vittorio De Sica film, and what that means you’ll be getting.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10