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The Scroll

No. 84: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

Keeping the weeds at bay

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1970, dir. Vittorio De Sica. The protagonists of Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award-winning film are members of an aristocratic Italian Jewish family who play tennis and enjoy life at their luxurious estate while the Fascists are preparing to rid their country of Jews. Their obliviousness to politics is both maddening and touching, and their bickering and love affairs rendered all the more brittle considering the imminent danger. The film ends with a kaddish, not only for the Finzi-Continis, but also for their life of gentle cultivation, forever lost.

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Mark Bernheim says:

re. the Finzi Contini film, if i am not mistaken, the ending with the Kaddish and the ghostly tennis scene was ADDED by de Sica in another print/version specifically for American audiences (hence, more Jewish viewers and more box office receipts). the original Italian film ended without it, with the doomed families being taken away from Ferrara….I believe he was advised it had a better chance for the Oscar it did win with the additional religious element added in, which I do not think Italian/European audiences saw or needed to see to understand history as it truly was.

re. the Finzi Contini, if i am not mistaken, the Kaddish/ghostly tennis scene ending was added specifically for American audiences. I believe de Sica was advised to add it for more audience and box office and a better chance for the Oscar, whereas the Italian/European viewers saw a conclusion in which the doomed families were carried away from Ferrara as actually happened to Bassani’s world (if not to him or his family).

Fascinating, Mark. I never knew that, and will look into it. Thanks for posting!

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No. 84: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

Keeping the weeds at bay

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