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The Religious Affiliation of Director
Vittorio De Sica



From: Derek Prouse, "Vittorio De Sica" in World Film Directors, Volume One: 1890-1945, ed. by John Wakeman, H. W. Wilson Company: New York (1987), pages 230-231:
It was in [De Sica's] next film, I bambini ciguardano (The Children are Watching Us, 1943), that a vital aspect of his creative genius became apparent; his remarkable perception of the feelings of children... the film examines the impact on a young boy's life of his mother's extramarital affair with a family friend. Prico... becomes agonizingly aware of the rift in his family life, and his sense of loss is made even more acute when he is placed in a Jesuit boarding school...

La porta del cielo (The Gate of Heaven, 1944) followed and had a chequered career. De Sica had received an invitation (or command) from Hitler's Porpaganda Minister, Dr. Goebbels, to make a film in Prague. A simultaneous commission from the Catholic Cinema Center supplied a fortuitious alternative to serving under the fascist banner. La porta del cielo recounted a train journey to the shrine of the Blessed Virgin at Loreto, famous for curing the afflicted. In various interwoven vignettes, Zavattini, De Sica, and Diego Fabbri investigated the stories of some of the travelers, among them a young worker blinded in a factor accident and a concert pianist with a paralyzed hand, who is making the pilgrimage in spite of his atheism.

De Sica's account seems to have lacked the mystical fervor the Vatican had hoped for, and the completed film was mysteriously "lost." Nevertheless, it resurfaced in Paris some four years later, amplified by archival shots intended to give the impression that it concerned a pilgrimage to Lourdes, in a bid to increase its appeal to French cinema-goers... Years later, De Sica said that he considered itone of his best works...

Prouse, page 233:
...Miracolo a Milano (Miracle in Milan 1951)... "The film," says De Sica, "is a fable young and old alike. Even the special effects are childish tricks. Very simple,, almost puerile, born out of a child's imagination. I wanted to bring to the screen, apart from any political considerations professed and shared by all of us, the Christian human sense of solidarity." As for the film's meaning, he added, "it's simply the triumph of goodness; that men whould learn to be good to one another. That is my film's only politics."

Not everyone was content to see the film in such simple terms: the Vatican condemned it for materialism, because a child is seen to be born from a cabbage, while some right-wing critics, assessing the angle of the squatters' flight over the Cathedral of Milan, figured that they were heading east, that is, towards Moscow!

Prouse, page 235:
In 1968 De Sica became a French citizen in order to obtain a divorce from his first wife; he was married the same year to the actress Maria Merceder, with whom he had lived since 1942.
Prouse, page 236:
...Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini (Te Garden of the Finzi-Continis, 1971)... set in the years just before and during World War II. Its theme is the fate of the Italian Jews under the Fascists; in particular the Finzi-Continis, a rich aristocratic family from Ferrara. Locked in their false Eden--the garden is almost never sullied by the eyes of strangers--the children of the family indulge in their amorous intrigues, almost wantonly unaware of the threat mounting outside to their decorous, fastidious way of life, ultimately to be shattered brutally by the family's arrest prior to deportation... The director's sure guidance of his actors is once more in evidence, with Dominique Sanda particularly effective as the aristocratic girl whose relationship with the son of a middle-class Jewish family is spoiled by her jealously incestuous feelings for her brother. The film won... an Oscar for the best foreign-language film.

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Webpage created 1 June 2005. Last modified 1 June 2005.
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