Friday, March 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)

The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) directed by Roberto Rossellini

The Flowers of St. Francis is not a bio-pic of that most popular saint of the Medieval Ages. It is a collection of vignettes just after Pope Innocent III's blessing and acknowledging Francis's fledgling order. In the opening sequence, Francis and his monks return from Rome to Rivotorio in a soaking rain. They discuss a bit of the spirituality of the order and their purpose. About ten other short, barely connected stories follow, showing Francis and his early followers in action.

The blend of comedy and seriousness leans over on the comic side, which is not a flaw. The movie examines the spirituality of Francis which leads to a way of life absurd by typical secular standards. Francis follows and hugs a leper. His monks gather hundreds of flowers to make a sweet smelling carpet when St. Clair comes to visit. A sick monk wishes for a pork leg to eat and another monk goes to a herd of swine asking, "Brother Pig, will you let me have your leg?" An authentic Christian life leads not only to a radical conversion for the self but also to a new worldview and way of dealing with others, including the natural world. The movie expresses the Franciscan charism and the monks' joy in living this radical life quite well.

Part of the success of the film is Rossellini's use of actual Franciscan monks to play Francis and his followers. The film's style is very natural and realistic which heightens the contrast of their lives to the rest of the world.

If you are looking for a biography of Francis or a plot-driven narrative from his life, this movie is not for you. But if you want a glimpse into the Christian life through a Franciscan lens, this movie delivers the goods. I recommend it highly.

No comments:

Post a Comment