A retreating group of German soldiers under the command of Capt. Friedrich walk into the small town of Busseto in 1944. The town, to their amazement is empty. As the soldiers walk the streets, they see one of their comrades dead. The group has been joined by an Italian fascist soldier, Cesare.
In the nearby lake, Samuele, a Jewish violin teacher, has been on a boat with his fiancée, Lea. The couple, and his sister Anna, have been hiding in the farm of two peasants. Samuele and Anna's parents were sent to Nazi concentration camps, but they managed to elude being captured. It does not take long for the German invaders to find them.
Capt. Friedrich, a violinist himself, realizes Samuele is Jewish, but in his heart, he probably feels compassion to the young man and the music he makes. As the six Italians are taken prisoners, they are taken to the theater in town where they are threatened. Friedrich happens to hear a radio transmission about the war having ended. He decides to abandon the town, leaving his prisoners behind, but one of the soldiers under his command, shoots and injures Samuele.
Luca Mazzari, the director, also wrote the screenplay with Andrea Oliva and Paolo Croci. The coldness in the way the film was structured, does not hold the viewer's interest. The cruelty the Germans soldiers during that conflict has been well documented in other films of this genre. Yet, the film is not involving. This was probably a project that looked and sounded much better in the written page and Mr. Mazzari had the best intentions for the film to succeed, yet the audience is left cold after all is said and done.
Gianmarco Tognazzi, Ugo's son, plays Samuele. Hermann Weisskopf fares better as the Nazi officer with a conscience. Anita Caprioli and Fabrizia Sacchi are seen as Anna and Lea. It is interesting the town of Busseto served as the location for the film. The town was famous because it was a home for Giuseppe Verdi, perhaps the best opera composer of all times. The production was photographed by Gino Sgreva, showing a ghost of a town, as befitting the time when the action took place.
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