The beginning of the thirteenth century, the town of Assisi in Italian Umbria. The son of a rich merchant, Francesco Bernardone, comes back ill from war. In his delirium, he goes back in his memories to the days when he spent time on parties and carnal pleasures. Yet, the shadow of the cross that he sees in fever brings an end to his old life. The armor which he calls "my death mask" appears to be his final clothing of the old human. He slowly recovers, but after the illness there is not the Francesco that was known to everybody any longer. Instead of spending hours in taverns, he spends them on meadows, instead of drinking, he meditates the beauty of God's creatures. Once, he encounters a ruined little church. There, from the old cross, Christ changes his life forever. Francesco renounces the riches, his family and starts to rebuild the Church as "il Poverello - the poorest of the poor." Soon, he gathers many people who are willingly built into a powerful new Spiritual Temple. Will ...Written by
The Italian version runs 14 minutes longer, has a different score (no Donovan) and is totally recut, almost to the extent of being a different film. The film is not a flashback, it begins as the boys travel to an attic where they've acquired suits of Armour, then into the credits, then an extended ride through the fields with totally different dialogue. Different scenes, shots and dialogue throughout. See more »
This movie highly impacted me as an early college student in the 1970s.
Upon seeing this movie in my young 20s, I fell in love (metaphorically speaking) with St. Francis of Assisi and the simple message of life that he practiced. Though many of the absolute facts were stretched, like in most "historic" films, the movie was completely on the mark about his simplicity and his love of nature and mankind. In addition, it gave a very plausible and probable glimpse of the love relationship he had with St. Clare, all in contrast with the idea of love and sexuality which we have in these times.
Though the Italian version soundtrack was not by Donovan, the English language songs he sang gave the movie great focus and support. I often wondered why it was only issued on vinyl in Italy, which is how I discovered Donovan's songs were not present. The music is sensitive and wonderful.
Both young actors, Bowker & Faulkner, fill their roles with perfection. Bowker is one of the most beautiful and sensitive young actresses of that period, so it is with wonder that she was not more utilized or popular.
Yes, the film does have the allegorical connection with the hippie movement, but that does not diminish the story nor the impact. In fact, rather, it parallels our times and served to connect me with the times of Francis, if that is possible.
Finally, Zeffirelli deserves a thanks for tackling this saint with compelling zeal, passion, sensitivity, and panache. As another reviewer here noted, the scenery will blow you away. And as a child of the 50s who grew up in the late 60s, this movie offset the idea of love having to be of a sexual nature, and elevated love to a plane where it becomes transcendent and transforming. Isn't that what love is supposed to do in our lives? I have had my own 2 sons watch it with me more than once as they were growing up, and they are mid-20s now.
It will be a hard film to find, but is viewable for any age without reservations and is well worth the search. (It is now available on DVD for around $10 or less.)
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