The Flowers of St. Francis
|Francesco, giullare di Dio|
|Directed by||Roberto Rossellini|
|Produced by||Angelo Rizzoli|
|Written by||Roberto Rossellini
|Music by||Renzo Rossellini
|Editing by||Jolanda Benvenuti|
|Release date(s)||14 December 1950|
|Running time||89 minutes|
The Flowers of St. Francis (in Italian, Francesco, giullare di Dio, or “Francis, God’s Jester”) is a 1950 film directed by Roberto Rosselliniand co-written by Federico Fellini. The film is based on two books, 14th century book I Fioretti Di San Francesco Little Flowers of St. Francis, and La Vita di Frate Ginepro (The Life of Brother Juniper) which relate the life and work of St. Francis and the early Franciscans. I Fioretti is composed of 78 small chapters. The novel as a whole is less biographical and is instead more focused on relating extravagant tales of the life of Saint Francis and his followers. The movie follows the same premise, though rather than relating all 78 chapters, the movie focuses instead on nine of the 78 chapters. Each chapter is composed in the style of a parable, and, like parables, contains a moral theme. Every new scene transitions with a chapter marker, a device that gives the same of the novel it was based upon. When the movie initially debuted in America on October 6, 1952, the chapter markers were removed.
Included in the acting cast is Gianfranco Bellini as the narrator, who has voice dubbed several American films for the Italian cinema.Monks from the Nocere Inferiore Monastery played the roles of Saint Francis and the friars. Playing the role of Saint Francis is a brother who is not credited for the film, Brother Nazario Gerardi. One of the more famous actors of the film is Aldo Fabrizi. Fabrizi has worked with Rossellini before, notably in the neorealistic work, Roma, Città Aperta. Rome, Open City. The film garnered Fabrizi with international acclaim. He entered the movie scene in 1942, and is noted for both writing and directing his own vehicles. In this film, Fabrizi plays the role of Nicolaio, the tyrant of Viterbo.
Rossellini had a strong interest in Christian values in the contemporary world. Though he was not a practicing Catholic, Rossellini loved the Church’s ethical teaching, and was enchanted by religious sentiment—things which were neglected in the materialistic world. This interest helped to inspire the making of the film. He employed two priests to work on the film, Félix A. Morlion O.P., and Antonio Lisandri O.F.M. Though the priests contributed little to the script, their presence within the movie gave a feel of respectability in regards to theology. Morlion vigorously defended Catholic foundations within Italian neorealism, and felt that Rossellini’s work, and eventually scriptwriter Fellini, best captured this foundation.