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The film dramatizes about a dozen vignettes from the life of St. Francis and his early followers - starting with their return in the rain to Rivotorlo from Rome when the Pope blessed their Rule and ending with their dispersal to preach. The unconnected chapters are like parables, some with a moral. The slight and comic Ginepro returns naked to St. Mary's of the Angels, having given away his tunic, but not his ricotta. The aged Giovanni shouts and holds onto his cape; the beatific St. Clair pays a visit. Humble Francis doubts his leadership, hugs a leper, and sends his brothers spinning, dizzy, and smiling into the world. This brotherhood is infused with whimsy as well as belief.Written by
"The Flowers of St. Francis" is a very unusual film. Instead of telling the life of St. Francis of Assisi in any traditional sense, the film is made up of several parables about him and his followers--stories that are most likely fictional. They are all meant to illustrate various lessons--such as humility, service and kindness. This makes the plot very episodic and somewhat disjoint. The film is also unusual, at least when seen today, because almost all the people in the film are non-actors. However, at the time, the Italian Neo-Realist movement (led by the likes of Rossellini and De Sica) stressed the extensive use of non-actors in natural settings--mostly because the country was bankrupt following WWII and had little other choice! But, what sets this apart is that the monks in the film are actually real monks! That is pretty amazing.
My enjoyment of this film was impaired, somewhat, by my having seen a recent documentary, "My Voyage to Italy". In it, Martin Scorsese discusses many of his favorite films. However, instead of just explaining what he likes in them or how they influenced him as a director, Scorsese goes on to explain the plots as well as the endings of many of these films! So, because he provided so many spoilers for "The Flowers of St. Francis", I didn't get nearly as much out of the film as I might have.
So is it worth your seeing it? Of course. The biggest reason is that these non-actors gave some amazing performances and the film is very artistic. It also is far less heavy-handed than most religious films. While I still would have preferred seeing the life story of St. Francis, I still did appreciate the work that went into making this lovely film. Additionally, its message of spirituality over religiosity is timeless and inspiring.
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