The location: Nazi occupied Rome. As Rome is classified an open city, most Romans can wander the streets without fear of the city being bombed or them being killed in the process. But life ... See full summary »
This film was based on Edmondo De Amicis' 1886 book CUORE, meant to instill patriotic and moral values, and which has been filmed several times. It is set in 19th Century Turin, and its central character is a paternal and caring teacher, Maestro Perboni (Vittorio De Sica) whose young students adore him. This version includes a connecting plot, about the amorous longings of his co-teacher and co-boarder Clotilde (Maria Mercader) and her failed love for an ambitious young Lieutenant Gardena (Giorgio De Lullo). The best things in the film are the portrayals of the young boys and their personal lives. Of particular note among the young performers are Luciano De Ambrosis, who had been so unforgettable in De Sica's "The Children Are Watching Us;" Gino Luerini, the boy in love with Pier Angeli in "Tomorrow is too Late;" Vito Annichiarico, who was Anna Magnani's son in "Open City;" and Carlo Delle Piane, the Jimmy-Durante-nosed performer who would have success as an adult actor as a favorite in Pupi Avati's films. It is said that De Sica himself directed the sequences with the kids rather than credited director Duilio Coletti. This was made, after all, in the same period that De Sica shot his landmark "The Bicycle Thief." Made too at the time of great political turmoil in Italy, there is a subtext here of the need for social justice, as well as an anti-war message, and Perboni is a socialist whose ideas get him into trouble with the school authorities. Excised from the American release version called "Heart and Soul" are some of the political activities of Perboni as well as the patriotic vignettes about heroic boys that are in the uncut version as well as in the book. This is, all in all, a lovable and charming film, although much less rich than Luigi Comencini's 6-hour TV version of 1984.
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