The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (film)

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The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
Italian theatrical release poster
ItalianIl giardino dei Finzi-Contini
Directed byVittorio De Sica
Screenplay byVittorio Bonicelli [it]
Ugo Pirro
Based onThe Garden of the Finzi-Continis
by Giorgio Bassani
Produced byArthur Cohn
Gianni Hecht Lucari
Artur Brauner
StarringLino Capolicchio
Dominique Sanda
Helmut Berger
Fabio Testi
Romolo Valli
CinematographyEnnio Guarnieri
Edited byAdriana Novelli [it]
Music byManuel De Sica
Documento Film
Distributed byTitanus (Italy)
CCC-Filmkunst (West Germany)
Release date
  • 4 December 1970 (1970-12-04)
Running time
94 minutes
West Germany

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italian: Il giardino dei Finzi Contini) is a 1970 historical drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica. The screenplay by Ugo Pirro and Vittorio Bonicelli adapts Italian Jewish author Giorgio Bassani's 1962 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, about the lives of an upper-class Jewish family in Ferrara during the Fascist era. The film stars Lino Capolicchio, Dominique Sanda, Helmut Berger, Romolo Valli, and Fabio Testi in his breakthrough role.

An Italian production with West German financing,[1] The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was entered into the 21st Berlin International Film Festival and won the Golden Bear. It received positive acclaim from international critics,[2] winning the 1972 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and earning a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film holds a 100% review score on Rotten Tomatoes.[2]


In the late 1930s, in Ferrara, a group of young friends get together for afternoons of tennis and happy times. Some of them are Italian Jews and a rising tide of Fascism has imposed increasingly antisemitic restrictions in their lives. Barred from regular tennis clubs, they go to play at the grand, walled estate owned by the Finzi-Continis, a wealthy, intellectual and sophisticated Jewish family. The two young Finzi-Continis, Alberto and his sister Micòl, have organized a tennis tournament. Oblivious to the threats around them, life still seems to be sunny at the large Finzi-Contini estate, keeping the rest of the world at bay.

Among the visitors there is a man vying for the beautiful, tall and blonde Micòl Finzi-Contini. Giorgio, her middle class Jewish childhood friend, feels entitled to her heart. A series of flashbacks show how Giorgio used to wait outside the walls of the estate, hoping for a glimpse of Micòl. As teenagers they became fast friends. Now as adults, they enjoy their mutual company and Micòl gives Giorgio special attention. Escaping a sudden downpour in a gazebo, Giorgio tries to touch her, but she rejects him. Alberto, whose health is fragile, enjoys a close friendship with Giampiero Malnate, a darkly handsome gentile with socialist sympathies. Giorgio's father considers the Finzi-Continis so different that they don’t even seem to be Jewish. Wealth, privilege and generations of intellectual and social position have bred them into a family as proud as it is vulnerable. The other Jews in the town react to Mussolini's edicts in various ways: Giorgio is enraged; his father is philosophical. But the Finzi-Continis hardly seem to know, or care, what is happening.

Giorgio, who is about to graduate, becomes a frequent visitor to the Finzi-Continis' villa where he is allowed to use their extensive library. He is in love with Micòl, and she seems to return his feeling, but she unexpectedly leaves to stay in Venice with her uncles. On her return Micòl changes, coldly rejecting any show of affection from Giorgio. Instead she carries on an affair with Giampiero, a man she claims to despise as too vulgar, crude, and leftist for her tastes. Peeking through a window Giorgio discovers Giampiero and Micòl naked together. Heartbroken Giorgio is comforted by his father.

The political events close in. A journey to visit his brother Ernesto in Grenoble exposes Giorgio to news of the Nazi persecution, but he returns to Ferrara. With the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Giampiero is recruited and sent to the Russian front. By 1943 all the young Jews who used to visit the Garden of the Finzi-Continis have been arrested. Giampiero has been killed at the Russian front.

By the time the frail and sick Alberto dies, Italy is occupied by the Germans and the fascists are hunting down and rounding up the Jews of Ferrara. The Finzi-Continis are abruptly taken away from their contentment and illusory isolation. Separated from her parents Micòl and her frail and distraught grandmother are placed in a former classroom. They are surprised to find Giorgio’s father. Anxiously she asks him about Giorgio. He tells her that he hopes that Giorgio and the rest of his family has made it abroad. The fate of the Jews of Ferrara is to be deported to the concentration camps. Giorgio's father hopes that at least they won't be separated.

Images show happy days of Micòl and Giampiero playing tennis and now the empty tennis court. The sequence is accompanied by the El Malei Rachamim, a Jewish lament for the dead.


Dominique Sanda as Micòl
Lino Capolicchio as Giorgio

Casting notes

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis marked the debut or near-debut for some of its stars, notably the actors who played the two adult Finzi-Contini children, Micòl and Alberto. For Dominique Sanda (Micòl), it was her first Italian feature film (followed by such films as The Conformist and 1900). For Helmut Berger (Alberto), it was his third feature film.


In 1972, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.[3] It won the Golden Bear at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival in 1971.[4] It was De Sica's penultimate film.

See also


  1. ^ "Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini (1970)". BFI. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  2. ^ a b The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, retrieved 2021-10-29
  3. ^ "The 44th Academy Awards (1972) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  4. ^ "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-03-14.

Further reading

  • Tibbetts, John C., and James M. Welsh, eds. The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film (2nd ed. 2005) pp 148–149.

External links