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Film / The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

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The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is a 1970 Italian drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica.

The film covers events from 1938 to 1943 in the town of Ferrara. At the start of the film Fascist Italy, prior to this date not at all antisemitic, has followed the lead of Benito Mussolini's German masters and passed anti-Jewish race laws. Since the Jews of Ferrara are no longer allowed to play tennis in the local tennis club, they go to the home of the Finzi-Continis, an absurdly wealthy Jewish family who live in an enormous mansion on an estate that is protected by high walls and boasts spacious gardens as well as a tennis court. Their great wealth and high walls insulate them from the gradually deteriorating conditions of life for Italy's other Jews.

Giorgio is the son of a middle-class Jewish family, long friends of the Finzi-Continis; he plays tennis on their court and studies with the Finzi-Contini patriarch, a professor. Giorgio is desperately in love with Micòl Finzi-Contini, the professor's dazzlingly beautiful daughter and his friend since childhood, but her feelings towards him are more ambiguous. Other people in their social circle include Micòl's brother Alberto, Giorgio's brother Ernesto, another local Jew named Bruno Lattes, and Giampiero Malnate, who is a Gentile but an anti-fascist.

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Tropes:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Micòl rejects polite, gentlemanly Giorgio, and has sex with Giampiero, the brash young man who talks about how much he likes sluts.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The jackboot has already been on Italy's neck for 16 years or so, but this film depicts the point at which it turned against the country's Jews.
  • Downer Ending: And how. The Finzi-Continis are rounded up along with Giorgio's father. In Real Life almost all the Jews of Ferrara that were arrested died in the Holocaust.
  • The Film of the Book: From a 1962 novel by Giorgio Bassani, a Jew from Ferrara whose father was rounded up and sent to his death in a German camp. Bassani was so angry at the film for certain changes (one was making Micòl and Bruno's relationship explicit) that he had his name removed from the screenplay credit.
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  • Flashback: Multiple flashbacks showing the childhood friendship of Giorgio and Micòl.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Giorgio's parents sometimes speak in French when they don't want the maid to know what they're saying.
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Although the real reason is that Micòl simply doesn't find Giorgio attractive.
  • Impairment Shot: As Alberto is dying of...something (TB?), the POV shot occasionally goes out of focus.
  • Intro Dump: Giorgio is introduced to several of the other characters when entering the garden at the start of the movie.
  • Just Friends: Giorgio and Micòl, much to his displeasure, due to her utter lack of romantic interest in him.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: Bruno says he likes his girlfriend Gladys precisely because she is so slutty.
  • Ouija Board: The friends play a variant with a wine glass and letters arranged in a circle. The glass predicts the coming of war.
  • The Peeping Tom: Giorgio does this when he sees Micol fleeing across the grounds of the garden, follows her, and looks through a window to see her in the aftermath of sex with Giampiero.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The library manager who casually tosses Giorgio out, blaming it on regulations, while having the gall to ask how Giorgio's poetry is coming along.
  • Selective Obliviousness: For a long time Giorgio's father, who was himself a fascist before Italian fascism turned antisemitic, simply refuses to acknowledge how bad things are getting for Italy's Jews.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Micòl's white blouse hides nothing after she and Giorgio are caught in the rain. Sex almost follows, but she stops it for reasons that later become clear.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: When Micòl catches Giorgio peeping on her and Bruno, she deliberately exposes her breasts.
  • State Sec: OVRA, the Fascist secret police that are rounding up Jews at the end of the movie.
  • Stock Footage: In a couple of scenes characters are shown watching newsreels of fascist rallies and, later, combat.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Giorgio bids Alberto goodbye when Alberto goes to France to study.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, did Giorgio escape? The source novel reveals that yes, he did.


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