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The Flowers of St. Francis

(Italian 1950 b 87’)

En: 6 Ed: 8

Directed by Roberto Rossellini, Francesco of Assisi leads a band of brothers who live in poverty to find God and help others.
      During the titles Francesco is heard reading a prayer from a letter.
      On a rainy day a group of about a dozen friars walk along a muddy road. Bernardo talks about how he would pray, and they stop and discuss his ideas about peace and the joy of God. He interprets fighting as the battle for virtue. Bernardo says the Pope has now blessed their way of life, and they can spread their ideas. They are happy in their poverty and run to a river and cross the water. One brother asks Francesco (Nazario Gerardi) why the world follows him even though he is not handsome, great, or noble. Francesco replies that God found the most humble creature on Earth, the worst of sinners, so that people would see the virtue and goodness that comes from God. He gives the glory to God. The brother says that is why he follows him.
      They come to a small hut they built; but the man sleeping there tells them to get out and threatens to hit them with a club. Francesco goes out and persuades the others to follow him. He says they have reason to rejoice because providence is making them useful to others. They go to the ruins of a church and sit in the rain. Francesco asks God to forgive him for imposing obedience on them. He tells Bernardo to punish him for his arrogance as he lies on the ground. This is his penance for imposing his arrogance on them. He lies on his back. Bernardo gently puts his foot on him and then helps him to stand up. Francesco leads them in a song in the pouring rain.
      The brothers are working to rebuild the ruined church, and Bernardo says he would rather be preaching. Two brothers arrive with an arc of bells which they set up on the altar in the church. Then they go into a very small hut where the dozen of them can barely fit. As they are singing, Ginapro (Severino Pasacane) returns in his underwear. They see him and cover him with a blanket. He says he gave his cloak to a poor man who was asking for alms. Francesco commands him not to give away his tunic without his permission. They go back into the hut while singing.
      The brothers run in a field and find Francesco in the woods. He says he is praying that people will become humble and peaceful. He tells them to go forth in humility and honesty while praying in their hearts to avoid pride. They are to help each other and anyone they meet who needs them. Those who do not bring peace on Earth will have little reward from God in heaven. He warns them not to waste their precious gift of time. They should not be idle but work so as not to be a burden on others. He prays that those who are ignorant of the Gospel will be moved by their example. He tells Ginapro to cook a meal for them, and they will get him a tunic from Provence.
      Francesco says his famous prayer to be an instrument of God’s peace as birds sing around him. He speaks to a bird that landed on his shoulder.
      An old man leads a cow with a rope and says Francesco is beautiful. The old man says he brought the cow for them; but several people arrive and says it is their cow. Francesco gives the cow back to them but welcomes the old man. They go into the church, and he shows him the bells and a candle. The two men pray together. They go outside, and Francesco sees the fire is going out under the cooking pot. He shouts to Ginapro who returns with fuel for the fire. Francesco asks why he was stingy with Brother Fire. Ginapro says fire can also do harm.
      The old man and Francesco sweep, and the old man says he wants to join them because he wants to be a saint like Francesco who tells him he is Francesco. They hug. Brothers return with a tunic and say that Clare is coming to see them. One brother says they did not get any alms. Francesco says they will share and introduces them to the new brother named Giovanni (Peparuolo). They go inside the church, sit on the ground, and sing.
      The brothers are picking flowers to prepare for Clare, and they take whole branches of blooms. Three men roll a large rock and use it to make a bench with a board. The brothers shave each other and trim their hair. A brother stirs the cooking pot and tells others that Clare is coming. They see her in the distance and run toward her. Clare (Arabella Lemaitre) arrives with three sisters, and the brothers present the sisters with flowers. Clare bows before Francesco and talks of her memories there where she took her vows. They go in the church, and Francesco leads the prayer. One brother goes out and complains that they gave his cape to Ginapro. They explain to him that he needs it, and they help Ginapro dress in the bushes. They rejoice that they saw him naked and clothed him.
      Francesco, the four sisters, and others are sitting on the benches. Ginapro says that he was visited by the devil, but he closed his heart to him and sent him away. Francesco puts his hand on his head and prays.
      Ginapro is cooking soup and says a man has been fasting. He takes the soup to the man who is lying in the hut. He feeds the man a spoonful of soup, and the man says that is enough. Ginapro tries to persuade him to eat more, and the man says he would like a pig’s foot. Ginapro goes out and tells the old man he is going to look for a pig’s foot. Ginapro looks around and finds pigs in the bushes. He talks to them and asks for a foot. They run from him, but he follows them. A pig screams, and Ginapro comes out of the bushes with a severed pig’s foot. He thanks God for it and puts it in the cooking pot. Francesco comes over and smells the soup. A farmer arrives and complains that his pig lost a foot. Ginapro says he did a good deed. Francesco sends him to run after the man and beg his forgiveness. Ginapro runs off and tries to explain to the man why he took the pig’s foot. The man pushes him away and threatens him with his staff. Ginapro looks up and goes back. The farmer carries his wounded pig to the cooking pot and leaves it there. Ginapro says he appeased him. They discuss what to do with the pig.
      At night Francesco is in the woods praying and thinking of Jesus nailed on the cross. He hears a bell nearby as a man walks by. He stands up, sees the man, and follows him. Francesco sees he is a leper and is dismayed. He walks up to him and takes his hand, but the leper walks on. Francesco embraces him and then lets him go on. Francesco cries and falls on the ground praying and weeping.
      Ginapro tells the old man that he is going to cook enough food for two weeks, and he hopes that Francesco will be glad. He says they need a large pot, and Giovanni suggests the shepherds might have one.
      Ginapro returns with a barrel and hangs it from a larger tripod over a large fire. He and Giovanni throw plants into the pot.
      At night a brother calls that the fire is going out. Ginapro returns and throws more wood on the fire. Francesco arrives and asks what he is doing. Ginapro explains that with two weeks of food he could go out and preach. Francesco gives him permission to preach but commands him to say that he talks, and yet talk accomplishes little. He says it is better to preach by the example of one’s deeds.
      Ginapro walks on a road by a noisy stream. He comes to some people who are working. He tries to preach from a distance, but no one can hear him. He goes closer and replaces a girl on a teeter-totter. He talks to them, and a girl says she got a helmet from the tyrant of Viterbo.
      Ginapro goes on and finds the armed camp where men are arguing and fighting. A man has a bloody nose, and they bet whether the blood will fill a cup. Ginapro says he talks but that talk accomplishes little. They pick him up and throw him to each other, making fun by throwing his body. He lands on a scaffold and climbs on top. They gather around, and he thanks God for the lesson about words and deeds. He jumps down to the ground, and they carry him off. Others follow as they take him to a man in armor who orders him killed. He is tied with a rope and dragged behind a horse. The man in armor tells servants to take it off. Ginapro is laid with his head on a large log. They talk about him. A man in a robe kneels down next to him and tells the others to leave them alone. The priest prays over him and asks who he is. Ginapro says he is a sinner from Assisi. The priest learns he is the companion of Francesco and tells others. The priest runs over to the tyrant Nicolaio (Aldo Fabrizi) and tells him who he has condemned to die. The priest explains the man only had a few tools for work. The priest pleads for him and tells him about Francesco who is the son of a rich man. Another man argues that they steal, but the priest defends them. Men bring Ginapro to Nicolai who questions him. Ginapro says he is a sinner. Nicolai has his helmet removed and asks if he was going to betray them or kill him. Ginapro sits on the ground and says he a sinner. The priest says he speaks the truth because we all are sinners. He pleads for mercy. Nicolai tells them to remove his armor, and they do so. He orders them to take Ginapro to his tent, and they go there. Nicolai dismisses the others and throws Ginapro down. He stands up, walks over to Nicolai, and smiles. Nicolai is upset, grabs Ginapro’s tunic, and holds him up. He threatens him, but Ginapro keeps smiling. Nicolai holds his head and looks in his eyes. He goes out and blows a horn. He announces that they are lifting the siege. The men come running and shouting, and others move with their things, leaving the huts and scaffold on fire. Soldiers on horses ride off, and Ginapro walks away from the burning camp.
      Francesco and Leone are walking when they see a man being attacked by a thief. Francesco asks the man on the horse what he is doing, and the man gives him alms before riding off. Francesco attends to the man on the ground and sees he is dead. He cries in Leone’s arms. Francesco and Leone walk in the cold wind and talk about perfect happiness. They see a large house and knock on the gate. They see someone at the top of stairs, and Francesco explains who they are. The man closes the door. They walk up the stairs, and the man tells them to go away. They persist, and the man pushes them down the stairs. He chases them out of the house and beats them outside. He goes back in the house. Francesco explains that overcoming every evil in oneself is perfect happiness. They go on while singing.
      A brother tells Francesco that they are coming. Brothers return, and Ginapro reports how little alms they got. Some poor people join them in their chapel. Francesco bequeaths these things to them, and Giovanni offers his shoes to the poor. Francesco looks around and weeps. He goes outside, and they follow him. He asks God to bless them and says goodbye. The brothers follow him and wave goodbye to the other people.
      The brothers walk on a road and enter a town with large buildings. They receive a basket and say they will share it with the poor. Other present them with gifts also. They give these things to priests for the poor. They go into a large church and pray out loud. They go out and continue on their journey.
      They walk on a country road and stop at a monument. Francesco says they are to go separate and preach. Asked how they will know God’s will, he tells them to spin around until they are dizzy to see which way they should go. They spin around and fall on the ground. Giovanni finally becomes dizzy too. Francesco asks which way they are facing, and they tell him which cities are their objectives. He tells them to go forth in peace. They stand up and go their ways while chanting.
      This biopic portrays the humble Francesco of Assisi and the brothers who followed his radical way of poverty and service. Although they renounce the world to find God through prayer and a simple life, they also work at simple tasks and serve others when they can.

Copyright © 2013 by Sanderson Beck

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