According to the Book, as well as the film itself, the title of Christ Stopped at Eboli is a symbolic one, indicating that the town that author of the original work Carlo Levi was sent to was so remote and unworthy of recognition that even Christ did not stray further than the town before it; this was a town that was truly separate from everything that one may cite as indicative of a modern, civilized society. It’s a potent metaphor, and as someone who has a particular skill with metaphors, it was one I greatly relished. It was only too bad that the film itself didn’t live up to the power of its own title. It was good, but it wasn’t “drop everything and go see this” good, which only made me wonder why the editors of the list deemed it necessary to add this one at any rate.
Carlo Levi is an anti-Mussolini activist in 1930s Italy, who before the film is arrested for his activities. He is thus sent to live in a town in South Italy, so remote that the town is basically self-serving unto itself, where he decides to help out the poor townsfolk, until his past life begins to catch up with him. That’s about as far as I can go into the plot, for two reasons; I don’t want to go too far in-depth with the particulars of what happened, and also because I didn’t really care about the particulars. I attribute this fully to my mindset going into the film; I was basically watching it to figure out why it was a must see, and through the film’s entire two-and-a-half hour running time, I continued to be let down in this endeavor. For what it’s worth, the film is quite well done; the cinematography is very much like a painting, aided by the town where the filmmakers decided to shoot in having that otherworldly old Italian town look and feel, complete with cobblestone stairs and walkways and layers upon layers of buildings built on the side of the mountainous terrain. But, for as well made as it is, there really wasn’t a real reason to force oneself to sit through the film. The entire time I was watching it, I didn’t connect with the characters, and I didn’t have any investment in what might happen next; I really felt that I was just trying to get through it to get through it and to check it off my checklist. And for me, that does not an entertaining experience make. Looking over my review of director Francesco Rosi’s original list film, I had almost exactly the same experience with that as I did with this one, but this one was longer, which made it that much more difficult to get through it.
I kept trying to ascertain what it was about this one that made it special enough to be added to the list’s latest edition, and every time, I kept coming up empty-handed. It was a decent enough film for what it tried to do, but it wasn’t especially amazing enough to warrant removing Rosi’s other film in favor of this one. I then tried to find out if there was something important historically or significantly that merited adding it, but I could find nothing, and the Book’s passage had no indication that that was the case; it truly believed this was an excellent enough film in its own right that it needed to be added. Well, I’ll have to disagree on that note; it was a good Italian film, and maybe even a well done adaptation, but I didn’t need to see this before I died. I can also say, with a good degree of certainty, that most of the people reading this will likely have the same outcome as I did with this one, so unless you’re a completionist, or you really want to see a Francesco Rosi film for some reason, I would be more than hesitant to recommend you seek this one out.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10