Plot: What’s it about?
The Flowers of St. Francis does not unfold like a traditional motion picture, there is no primary storyline that unrolls as time passes. Instead, the movie is made up of unconnected, at least in the narrative sense, pieces that combine for a general theme. So while the vignettes do not serve as building blocks in terms of narration, there is a definite theme to the proceedings. The film’s pieces all take place in the hills outside of Assisi, which happens to be the home of St. Francis and his monks. The land is not rich and the monks live a simple life, with simple stone huts and little else. The film follows the monks in various episodes, as they serve their faith through good times and bad.
The topic of religion is difficult to portray in cinema, as the line between true faith and melodrama can be as thin as floss. In most instances, filmmakers tend to shun a realistic take on faith in favor of overly dramatic or even mocking tones. But one film that deals with faith in an effective fashion is Roberto Rossellini’s The Flowers of St. Francis, a simple and understated, yet powerful motion picture. The movie looks at faith with an unbiased eye, as if to show us that faith can be quite serious, but also has a softer side. But this is done with taste and regard, so the humor is never forced. You have to give immense credit to Rossellini, as he is able to balance the elements in ways that few filmmakers could, which results in such a sublime result. Even so, I don’t know that I would call The Flowers of St. Francis a great movie, I just think it deals with a tough topic in a masterful way. But in any event, the movie is worth a look and since Criterion has crafted a solid treatment as always, no one should hesitate to give The Flowers of St. Francis a rental.
Video: How does it look?
The Flowers of St. Francis is presented in full frame, as intended. This transfer doesn’t look as sharp as more recent releases, but I venture to say it is excellent given the nature of this release. This movie is over thirty years old and it looks better than many films I’ve seen around the same age, so I won’t complain. The source print shows some minor flecks and nicks, but the compression is flawless, with no artifacts to be seen. The contrast is well executed with this black and white transfer, so the image is never obscured or over lightened. The shadows seem accurate and I could find no traces of detail loss at all.
Audio: How does it sound?
There just isn’t much to discuss here, as the included Italian mono option is good, but won’t turn any heads, of course. This is a dialogue driven movie and that means mono is more than adequate, no real problems seem to surface here. I heard no hiss or distortion of any kind, which is good news with a flick of this age, to be sure. No errors in terms of dialogue either, which is crucial and all, since this is a movie dominated by dialogue, to be sure. Not much else to report to be honest, although optional English subtitles are included.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You can check out three new interviews here, one with the director’s daughter Isabella Rosselini, another with film historian Adriano Apra, and the last with film critic Father Virgilio Fantuzzi. A wide variety of perspectives between these three, so all the interviews are worth a look. You can tell each has their own biases on the work, but each one also provides some worthwhile comments.