The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

1970 | Drama | 94 minutes | Italian with English subtitles


In the late 1930s, in Ferrara, Italy, young Italian Jews are barred by the Fascist government from local tennis clubs. They gravitate to the walled estate owned by the Finzi-Continis, a wealthy, intellectual and sophisticated Jewish family. In their sprawling home surrounded by lush gardens and tennis courts, the family seems oblivious to the dangers from Mussolini’s anti-Semitic Fascist government. Their two vibrant children, the lovely Micòl and the sensitive Alberto, invite their friends to come and play at their home. One guest, Giorgio, is infatuated with Micòl, but she spurns him for Alberto’s socialist friend, Giampiero. By 1943, all the young Jews who visited the Garden of the Finzi-Contins have been arrested. The fate of everyone in Ferrara, including the Finzi-Contini family, is now in the hands of a ruthless, murderous dictatorship.

Dominique Sanda (Micòl) / Lino Capolicchio (Giorgio) / Helmut Berger (Alberto)
Why Stream This Film?
The film brilliantly highlights one aspect of the coming of World War II: How can a well-educated, wealthy, sophisticated family in Fascist Italy not foresee the dangers that were coming? Why did they think that the brutality and viciousness of Mussolini would not affect them?  
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 1000%
  • Metacritic Score: 85
  • Academy Awards: Winner, Best Foreign Language Film; Nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
  • Berlin International Film Festival: Winner, Golden Bear
  • The film received a perfect 100% score from Rotten Tomatoes.

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De Sica’s film creates a feeling of nostalgia for a lost time and place, but it isn’t the nostalgia of looking back. It’s the nostalgia of the time itself, when people still inhabiting their world could sense it slipping away, and already missed what they had not yet lost.
Roger Ebert

A wonderfully photographed film, Vittorio De Sica contrasts brilliantly the apparent safety of the Finzis with the harsher reality outside the gates of their estate.This is a film that haunts with lyrical photography, but the almost surrealistic quality of the film does not take away the sadness of the story. The suffering is sensed more than seen, making the poignancy of THE GARDEN of the FINZI-CONTINIS even more piercing.

At a time when not many Holocaust movies were made, De Sica’s portrait of love, strife and death during wartime, achieved singular distinction, not to mention elegiac beauty, by examining its subjects from multiple perspectives.  Vittorio De Sica’s richly observed, poignant recreation of an era seems to be saying that even noble, sensitive people could not escape their senseless doom.
Emanuel Levy



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