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Three Brothers (1981)

Tre fratelli (original title)
PG | | Drama | 19 March 1981 (Italy)
Three men face their mother's death.



(story and screenplay), (story and screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Raffaele Giuranna
Nicola Giuranna
Vittorio Mezzogiorno ...
Rocco Giuranna / Young Donato
Raffaele's Wife
Maddalena Crippa ...
Rosaria Tafuri ...
Marta Zoffoli ...
Tino Schirinzi ...
Raffaeles's Friend
Young Donato's Wife
Pietro Biondi ...
1st Judge
Donato Giuranna
Accursio Di Leo ...
1st Friend at Bar
Luigi Infantino ...
2nd Friend at Bar
Girolamo Marzano ...
Nicola's Friend
Gina Pontrelli ...
The Brother's Mother


In a farmhouse in southern Italy, an old woman dies. Her husband summons their sons: from Rome, Raffaele, a judge facing a political case for which he risks assassination; from Naples, the religious and ideological Rocco, a counselor at a correctional institute for boys; from Turin, Nicola, a factory worker involved in labor disputes. Once home, each encounters the past and engages in reveries of what may come: Raffaele imagines his death, Rocco dreams of lifting the youth of Naples out of violence, drugs, and corruption, Nicola pictures embracing his estranged wife. Meanwhile, the old man and his young granddaughter explore the rhythms of the farm and grieve together. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




PG | See all certifications »


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Release Date:

19 March 1981 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Tres hermanos  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


Referenced in The Last Horror Film (1982) See more »


Je so' pazzo
by Pino Daniele
Edizioni musicali "BELRIVER" s.r.l.
per gentile concessione della EMI ITALIANA
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User Reviews

Evocative film about life, its purpose, and how people can change
22 December 2001 | by (Providence, RI, USA) – See all my reviews

"Tre fratelli" is a most evocative film that poses to the viewer fundamental questions of life, relationships, and how both can unknowingly be lost.

Raffaele, Nicola, and Rocco, the three brothers, had emigrated from their hometown in Puglia. Raffaele, the judge, although outwardly sedate, is consumed by paranoiac fear for his life. That fear puts a strain on his marital life. While Raffaele lives in fear, Nicola dwells over his poor marriage. His pain is so terrible not only because he still has feelings for his wife, but also because of Marta, his daughter. As Marta and her father were driving in the car back to Puglia, there was an intense chemistry between the two. The love he felt for his daughter was genuine and pronounced. Rocco, the third brother, is somewhat of a radical. That's almost expected; he runs a reform school, a very tiring job. He clashes with his brother, Raffaele, who fears that he is one of the terrorists that would kill him. "Tre fratelli" is a very ironic title. The brothers are not at all similar. They do, however, have on thing in common. They're all unhappy people.

Donato, the father, is in a world completely different from that of his sons. He's not the most loquacious person. However, he is a man of tremendous faith. He has no part of the Northern/Southern Italian class conflicts. By remaining at home, has retained his values. That's not to say that anyone who moves away loses his values. But, in the brothers' case, they had truly forgotten the "paese" that they had left.

In the film, there was an underlying theme of cultural change. As the boundaries between the North and South became less defined, so would the bucolic life of the South that could so easily impart values upon its people. Marta and Donato's relationship grows out of that nostalgic reflection on days gone by. Marta's presence is crucial. She brings out her grandfather's character, so representative of traditional familial values, which otherwise would have been drowned by the bickering of the brothers. With Donato's flashbacks, it becomes evident that Marta reminds him so much of his deceased wife; both could live their life in a simplistic, yet joyful way. The technique of flashback clearly enriches the message of director Francesco Rosi. Sadly, the viewer becomes predisposed to the feeling that those traditional values will die with time. In one of the more important instances of flashback, Donato recalls the time when he was at the beach with his wife, and they found her ring. In its unadulterated form, that scene conveyed pure joy. The final scene in which Donato held the ring was incredibly symbolic. As he held it, he came to the bittersweet understanding that he had lived his life in search of happiness, had found it. No matter how much longer he had to live, he would know that he had lived a good life. Regional and class conflicts obviously manifest themselves in the relationships of the three brothers. Before they even realized it, they were deprived of the values and maturing experiences that their father treasured so dearly. When they went home to Puglia, they truly didn't go home. That small town had ceased to be their home a long time ago. But, Rome, Turin, and Naples were no longer true homes to the brothers, either. To truly be home, one must first know what he truly desires.

At the end of the mother's funeral, while mourning their mother, it seems as if the brothers understand the essence of their family, as envisioned by their father and mother. Paradoxically, it takes the death of their mother to catalyze a rebirth in the lives of the three brothers.

"Tre fratelli" is obviously not acclaimed because of a climactic plot. It is Francesco Rosi's masterful portrayal of two conflicting perceptions of life that are so very clear to the viewer. By juxtaposing the relationships between the three brothers and that of Donato and Marta, Rosi's theme is magnified, reminding the viewer that we should all have an idea of the life we wish to lead. Let's note, however, that Donato does not live in a world of ignorant bliss; he is not naive. He merely had a clear perception of his true, human desires. The end of "Tre fratelli" is quite hopeful. It shows the viewer that no matter how much we isolate ourselves, we can always return. The brothers returned home as strangers, but it's obvious that in Puglia, their memories of the past were ignited, beseeching them to return to way that beatifies the fundamental joy in life, a joy that is not excluseive to southern Italy. We can live happily anywhere. As "Tre fratelli" so heart-wrenchingly reminds us, our lives can slip by quickly, yet without meaning. However, by looking inside of ourselves, we can always regain that which we have lost.

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