Don Camillo (1952)

I am not a party animal. I do not drink. I have two left feet. Loud music makes my head throb. I find it difficult to keep awake after 11 PM. So when friends ask, “What’re you doing on New Year’s Eve?” I say, “Watching a movie at home.”
And what better way to say goodbye to a bad year with a film that you hope will be a sign of things to come? A movie that embodies all the joy you want for the dawning year?

Don Camillo (Le Petit Monde du Don Camillo in French – it was a Franco-Italian production) is the story of a little town in the Po Valley in Italy. Even though it is named for its lead character, the Catholic priest of the town, the film is not just about the hot-headed Don Camillo and his arch-enemy, the communist Mayor Peppone, but about the little town itself.


We begin with an important event: a victory procession through town. The Town Council elections have just been held, and the Communist Party – headed by Giuseppe Botazzi aka Peppone (Gino Cervi) – has won. Peppone has been elected Mayor, and there’s much rejoicing and red flags and a marching band. A communist leader has also arrived from the city to congratulate Peppone, up on the stage that’s been set up in the square.


Don Camillo (played by French comic actor Fernandel) watches the procession go by, and after a minute or so of quiet seething, explodes and rushes back into the big, empty church to his perennial chatting companion: the Crucified Christ, above the altar.
To the Crucified Christ, Don Camillo pours out all his sorrows: how could that godless Peppone have become Mayor? Why did Christ allow it? What will happen to the little town?


And Christ listens. And speaks (in a low, gentle voice, full of patience and longsuffering – that of Ruggero Ruggeri). Or is it simply Don Camillo’s conscience? Whatever it is, Don Camillo brushes it aside and decides he can’t let the communists – who’ve now set up loudspeakers in the square, and are getting ready to create even more of a racket – prevail. He hurries up to the bell tower of the church and begins pulling on the ropes. The bells are massive, clanking clear and loud, drowning out every sound in the little square.


Consternation reigns up on the stage. Peppone scowls darkly. He knows just what Don Camillo is up to: sabotaging his, Peppone’s, victory. These two men are old enemies; they know each other very well.
Peppone is trying to think of how to retaliate when a woman comes hurrying up onto the stage. She makes her way to Peppone, to whom she says something, pulling on his arm as she does so.


The next thing we see, Peppone’s hurrying off the stage with her, and the crowd gathered on the stage follows, everybody equally confused about what’s going on, but curious.
… and Peppone appears on the balcony of his house, beaming with pride and joy, with a little bundle in his arms. His wife’s given birth to a son!


Up in the bell tower, when he discovers what’s happened, Don Camillo grins too, and begins ringing the bell ropes again, lovely joyous peals. Not because the ‘godless communists’ have had their victory interrupted, but because Peppone has become, anew, a Papa. The church bells in the little town ring for the ‘new comrade’ (as Peppone proudly proclaims) who’s arrived.


Some days later, Peppone’s wife (Leda Gloria) arrives at the church with two other people, carrying her baby to be baptised. “What will his name be?” Don Camillo asks.
“Libero Antonio Lenin.”
“Let the Russians baptise him,”
Don Camillo retorts, going off to the altar, while Signora Botazzi and her companions leave the church in a huff.


But, at the altar is the Crucified Christ, who reasons with Don Camillo (and in a wry, witty, wise style that makes him not a figure of awe, but a friend whom Don Camillo argues with, tries to hoodwink, and – just occasionally – kneels to). When Don Camillo preens himself at having ‘given it to those godless communists’, the Crucified Christ ticks him off for being stupid, and tells him to go call them back and baptise the baby. And when Don Camillo protests that ‘baptism is no joke’, the Crucified Christ says, “Don’t explain baptism to me, I invented it!”


Don Camillo gives in, soon enough, and sets off to get Signora Botazzi and Baby Botazzi back – just as Peppone arrives, bearing the baby in his arms. He refuses to leave the church until his son has been baptised. Don Camillo, on principle, refuses to do any such thing. So Peppone carefully places the baby in a pew, and rolls up his sleeves, silently challenging Don Camillo to a fight.
They can’t fight in the main body of the church, though, so Don Camillo leads Peppone into the bell tower, and they have it out with each other, pulling no punches at all…


… until the baby starts crying and both men rush back.
And Baby Botazzi does get baptised. Peppone – with a touch of belligerence, as if defying Don Camillo to object – says that he wants to name the child “Libero Antonio Camillo”. At which, Don Camillo says he might as well have the Lenin tag too; ‘Camillo’ cancels the others out.


That is what this film’s about. It’s not about the running feud between the ‘revolutionary’ Communist Mayor and the ‘reactionary’ Catholic priest, but about what they are, deep down. Peppone may be a communist, Don Camillo may be a priest – on the surface, two diametrically opposite ideologies, but they are, ultimately, both human, with the same weaknesses and faults, and the same virtues that make them very likeable individuals. It is also about people in general: a little world where, though there is suffering, poverty, death, and sorrow, there’s also love, hope and joy.


For instance, there is the Abbruciatta family, whose farm borders that of the Filottis. The Abbruciatta land is rock-hard and ‘bald as a pumpkin’, and the family are ardent communists. (Never mind that Grandpa Abbruciatta is the man chosen by Peppone to be godfather to little Libero Antonio Camillo Lenin Botazzi).
The Filottis, on the other hand, have beautiful, fertile land, and are among the town’s wealthiest land-owners.
These two families have been quarrelling over everything for so long that they’ve finally built a wall between their lands.


Only, they haven’t reckoned with the fact that the younger generation – Mariolino Abbruciatta (Franco Interlenghi) and Gina Filotti (Vera Talchi) – had been good friends as children. Now, after years in a city boarding school, a pretty Gina has returned, and has come face to face with the handsome Mariolino. And love has blossomed almost from the first moment.
(Well, not quite. Mariolino, when he sees Gina for the first time, blurts out, “You look great! Almost like a grown woman!” And Gina, insulted, snaps back, “What should I look like? A goat?”)


But they’ve gotten over that, and are now in love. A communist Romeo and his traditionalist Juliet. Where will their love story end up?


Then there’s the old school teacher, Signora Cristina (Sylvie). Signora Cristina had been a teacher for 50 years – she still remembers Peppone coming to school with his pockets full of frogs. She has taught almost everybody in the little town at some point or the other in their lives, is staunchly Catholic, and thinks communists are disgusting.


Late one night, Peppone and his Communist Party colleagues arrive at her home, looking shamefaced. Peppone’s proclamations, pinned up on the walls, have been defaced by someone who’s gone around scrawling “Peppone is an ass” on them. All because Peppone’s grammar and spelling leave much to be desired. So will Signora Cristina please give them a few lessons? And, this being the lovely little world it is, Signora Cristina does. She sits these communists down in her parlour and tutors them on how to write out a good notice.



Don Camillo is not so much a single story as a series of connected vignettes. There is the growing romance of Gina and Mariolino. There is the fact that Peppone has promised the people of the town a ‘Citizens’ Centre’, complete with theatre, cinema, gymnasium, library and more – where is he going to get the money to build that? There is Don Camillo’s long-pending request with the Town Council for the creation of a park for the townspeople.
There is a farmworkers’ strike, a football match, a much-awaited arrival in town of the bishop. There is rivalry and very occasional frustration, sorrow and joy – and a message of universal humanity.

Though I hadn’t seen Don Camillo before, I’ve read most of Giovanni Guareschi’s fantastic Don Camillo books – and knew that Guareschi himself wrote the screenplay for this film – so I was reasonably sure that it would be a good film. And it was. A wonderful, funny, poignant and heart-warming film. It had me laughing helplessly one minute, all choked up with emotion the next, and wishing all the time that it would never end.

What I liked about this film:

It’s very difficult to think of where to begin. Everything about Don Camillo is just right. The acting, the characterisation, the scripting, the direction (by Julien Duvivier, one of French cinema’s great directors): all fits perfectly. You know how it is when you read a good book, and build up an image in your mind of what it would be like on film? I do that a lot, and invariably end up disappointed. Don Camillo is one of the few films that captures the essence of the book perfectly. Of course, to accommodate it all onscreen, changes have been made – incidents and characters have been left out, or shortened – but it’s still all as I imagined it.

Among the best things about Don Camillo are the subtle messages embedded in it. There is the scene where Don Camillo, having sent Signora Botazzi on her way, comes to the Crucified Christ to crib. Christ scolds him and says that if that baby were to die, he would not go to heaven. Don Camillo bursts out, “Why would that baby die? He’s pink and healthy!” There’s a brief silence, only the Crucified Christ looking down at Don Camillo. Then a flustered Don Camillo nods and mutters that he’ll go fetch Signora Botazzi back.

Most endearing of all is the overall message of the film: that ideologies and other beliefs (religious, political or whatever) aside, we’re all human. We make friends and fall in love without taking into consideration whether the other person’s on the same side of the fence as us, or not. Peppone, die-hard communist that he may be, cannot imagine not having his baby baptised. And is the first to doff his hat when a lone Don Camillo, the Crucified Christ on shoulder, walks down the road through the crowd of communists on his way for the annual blessing of the Po River…


Don Camillo, in his stead, may be the Catholic priest, but he’s not above letting fly with his fists (and not just at Peppone, in the confines of the bell tower). He’s also not above stealing a machine gun from Peppone’s weapons warehouse, or a cigar from Peppone’s pocket. And while he does oppose the communists, when the wives of the land-owners come calling during a farmworkers’ strike and drone on about how bad things are, Don Camillo bursts out at them: “Quiet, you old madwomen! The selfish, stubborn owners are responsible too! May God send Filotti and his peers to hell with no pity!”


A priest who’s a socialist at heart, and a communist who’s a strange blend of socialism and tradition. But are they that, or just normal humans? A little bit of this, a little bit of that?

A good note, I think, on which to start the New Year. To remind us all of what it means to be tolerant. To be human. May 2012 be a good year for you. May it be full of happiness, love, and contentment. May your joys far outnumber your sorrows. And may this world be a more peaceful, more human place to live in.

Note:

Yes, no ‘What I didn’t like’, because there’s nothing that fits under that head for this film, but a brief note on Don Camillo.

This film was the first of a five-film series based on Giovanni Guareschi’s books about Don Camillo. The books (and the films, of course) are set just after World War II – Don Camillo is set in 1946, in a post-war Italy where the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI, the Italian Communist Party), having played an important part in the resistance movement, was quickly gathering strength. But Catholicism, an equally powerful part of life in Italy, could not be ignored, and a lot of people seemingly managed to support both sides with little effort.

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42 thoughts on “Don Camillo (1952)

  1. This is so heart warming and sweet. While reading your exycellent recounting of the story I saw it like a picture in my mind.
    Your sentiments regarding the philosophy in the story is much appreciated.

    >“Why would that baby die? He’s pink and healthy!” There’s a brief silence, only the Crucified Christ looking down at Don Camillo. Then a flustered Don Camillo nods and mutters that he’ll go fetch Signora Botazzi back.

    This is so touching, yet meaningful and does bring a smile at Camillo’s naiveity.
    Loved the review, and your way of writing it. Thanks.

    LOL at;
    >“Don’t explain baptism to me, I invented it!”

    These conversations between Don Camilo and Christ brings to mind a 1977 film called Yehi Hai Zindagi starring Sanjeev Kumar.
    I was quite impressed with th premise of the film where an angry/upset/annoyed Snjeev Kumar had such pieces of witty conversation with Krishna, who always spoke gently with a smile in contrast to Sanjeev’s loud outbursts.
    Well, now I know where the idea came from though I must say it was well done and acted by Sanjeev Kumar.

    • Thank you, pacifist! Happy to know you liked the review. Don Camillo is a wonderful film, sweet without being syrupy, and nicely balanced with both humour as well as a little bit of poignancy. I’d recommend it highly.

      Coincidentally, just a few days back I watched Nandanam, a Malayalam film that Anu recommended:

      http://anuradhawarrier.blogspot.com/2011/11/nandanam.html

      … and which also has that protagonist-chatting-with-deity thing in it. And, though I must confess to having had my doubts about how it would work, it did. Very believably so. It’s the same with Don Camillo. In Nandanam it’s a one-sided conversation (the heroine tells all her woes to her little Krishna idol – I won’t say more than that). I must try and get my hands on Yehi Hai Zindagi, now. Sounds interesting, and Sanjeev Kumar can always be depended upon for topnotch acting.

  2. *dancing around in glee* Another person who has even heard of Don Camillo! I have all the five books, a legacy from my father. D’you know you can’t get them these days for love or money? I haven’t seen the film but now you have made me want to go and re-read the books. Thank you. It’s a nice start to the New Year.

    So when friends ask, “What’re you doing on New Year’s Eve?” I say, “Watching a movie at home.”

    I envy you! Deeply, deeply envy you. Next year, I’m falling conveniently ill.

    • Anu, I am SO envious of you! I wish one of my parents had bought up the entire set and kept them for me. As it was, I didn’t know about Don Camillo, until I was a teenager, and an older cousin introduced me to them and lent her collection to me. I fell in love with the books right there and then. I did manage, years later, to buy a secondhand copy from a pavement bookseller in Delhi – it’s Don Camillo’s Dilemma. Battered and worn, but still whole, and much loved.

      (By the way, the books are available on Amazon. Some editions are a little more expensive than others, but they’re there, all right. I might just encash some of my gift certificates this year and treat myself to some Don Camillo…)

    • Anu, there are 6 books mentioned at amazon in 2 sets – UK English and US English (with different titles as well).
      You still have the pleasure of exploring one more book :)

      • pacifist, too true. :( I do not have Don Camillo’s Dilemma! I ddin’t realise there was a 6th book. Which fact has to be remedied at once!

        ps: Subsequent research has brought to light a used but good copy of the title at $5.45. Have snagged it! :)

        @dustedoff – I’m glad my father did, too. And I’m even gladder I snagged his book collection – none of my siblings would have cared for it anyway, so there’ll be no fights over them.

  3. Love Don Camillo and Peppone!
    They are regulars here on TV for Christmas and Easter and other festive occasions.

    I have seen all their films! Wonderful! So heart-warming! Equally heart warming and endearing is your review of the film!

    Few weeks back I saw docu on Italy’s history “From Garibaldi to Berlusconi”. The struggle between the catholicism and communists, was also a topic there. As a part of the documentary film,t hey also showed a propaganda filmof the conservative party, which the church supported. The film dealt with the topic, what will become of the communist? “A communist is like a bird wihtout a nest. The warm nest of the church. He will not rest with his family in the church graveyard.” And so on and so forth it went on and on.

    A nice way to ring in the new year!
    A Happy and Peaceful New Year to you and your family!

    • Harvey, thank you for that fabulous video clip – I loved seeing how Don Camillo and Peppone’s little town (yes, I think of it as their town, rather than just the town that acted as the sets!) has barely changed since the films were made. Delightful. That was the perfect New Year present; thank you!

      Whew. That quote about what will become of the communist is rather virulent, isn’t it? From Garibaldi to Berlusconi sounds interesting, though – Italy has had such an eventful history, it would make for an interesting study. I remember my sister once telling me (I think she was in college at the time) that Italy had had a change of government forty times since the end of WWII – and this was back in the late 80s. Even if it wasn’t that number, it’s still impressive.

      So, if you’ve seen all the Don Camillo films, which ones do you recommend? On the IMDB message boards, I saw that people said only the first two films were good, the others were not that great.

      • Glad you liked the video clip. Lovely!

        Garibaldi to Berlusconi was really very interesting. It was nearly two and half hours long and showed the intricacies of the Italian politics and also the Mafia’s involvement with it. Yes, the number of government changes in Italy is phenomenal. I think the present care-take government is the 60th since WWII.

        As for the Don Camillo films, I just realised I haven’t seen the last film, but I liked all the b/w films. the only thing is that the twists and turns become predictable with time just like in Indiana Jones films. I liked the film where the floods come and people troop together and help each other. I also loved when Don Camillo goes to Moscow with Peppone. I have seen the four films so often that I just can’t differentiate between the four and mix up the plots of all four.

        • Now I’m getting envious, Harvey! And restless – I do want to see the other films too. Even if they do start getting a bit predictable. Still.

          I believe there was an English-language film adaptation of Don Camillo too, starring (if I’m not mistaken) Terence Hill. I’ve also seen it mentioned that it was awful.

    • Ah,now that you mention it, of course I’ve heard people talk about these characters during conversation so while I didn’t pay much attention to the name Don Camillo, the name Peppone did register and rang a bell when I was reading the review.

      You see I don’t have a TV – not the set, but the connection, so have missed these films.
      The books and DVDs are all at amazon.co.uk and I think I have to spend some money on a late christmas present for me. :-D

      • Do, do yourself a favour and gift them to yourself! :-) The books I can vouch for, as well as this film – and let’s see what Harvey has to say about the rest of the films.

        I believe there is an English-dubbed version of Don Camillo too, but I’d strongly advise against that. Or even against the French-dubbed version (which I watched a bit of, before watching the Italian-dubbed version). Somehow that infectious excitement – the sheer, charming ‘Italianness’ of the story, the setting and the characters – doesn’t come through as forcefully in the French film.

        • I know what you mean. I’ve always found the hindi films dubbed in German quite out of character.
          So, the subtitled one is the right thing?

          • Yes, subtitled, not dubbed, from what I gather.

            In any case, I do tend to prefer subtitles to dubbing. After all, acting has a lot to do with tone, and the particular cadence of an actor’s speech is an integral part of his/her acting. I think, more often than not, that tends to get diluted when it’s dubbed in a different language.

            Plus, I think there are some things that need to unchanged in order to be best savoured. For instance, that hyper-excited ebullience of Don Camillo and his companions… even if you don’t understand much Italian, the sheer energy of those words is enough to bring home the message!

        • I have always seen the German dubbed version but enjoyed it all the same, but am sure the ‘Italianita’ is missing.
          The Hindi films dubbed in German are awful! They really do need good translators although they seem to have good sync voices.

          • Are there a lot of Hindi films dubbed in German out there, Harvey? New ones? Classics? Both?

            I can appreciate the need for good translators (of course!) as well as good sync voices. But does the ‘good sync’ also mean good acting? Since voice can convey a lot of emotion, ideally (as in major animation films now) good actors do the dubbing. Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether that’s the case with dubbing, anywhere. :-(

            • I have seen only the new Hindi films, mostly SRK films, being dubbed in German. Yeah good sync in these cases does mean good acting as well, but the translations are lousy.
              Certain words translated in German just don’t sound the same. I wouldn’t know how I would translate words like ulfat or ishq. Even if translated well it sounds very archaic in German.
              But still people some people love them!

              The Hollywood film translations though are quite good, except when certain dialects are used in the original English versions.

              • Thanks for answering that question, harvey! I can imagine that translating a word like ishq or ulfat (or even deewangee, for that matter) into a European language – even English – might be awkward, because the romanticism of that original word is lost… and if you try a literal translation, you end up with something that sounds rather ridiculous.

  4. Thank you for reviewing this one. Communism was a great step forward in Spain and Italy (universal franchise and education for women & underclasses among many many other benefits)…lots of stories from people here…and this film is a lovely testimony to all the contradictions it brought to ordinary people.

    • Bawa, every time I review a foreign-language film, I think of you… and yes, I will be watching La Tia Tula soon. I’ve been feeling guilty about leaving that unwatched so long!

      I like your comment about this film being a “lovely testimony to all the contradictions it brought to ordinary people.” I suppose it must have been a little unsettling for some people – even if they weren’t hard-core capitalists – to suddenly find communism growing so powerful in parts of post-war Europe. But then resilience is part of human life. We adapt.

  5. Dear, dear!
    Fancy reading about Don Camillo on Dustedoff!!! First thing I thought was: did you watch it in French? Because for me it’s utterly unthinkable to have Fernandel speak ANY other language! Then I read in the comments that you watched it in Italian, and this for me was a revelation: was Don Camillo made to be seen in Italian??? It’s a French movie, as you said, made by Julien Duvivier, and I’m pretty sure it must have been dubbed in the other languages from the French original. Anyway Madhu, I can testify that the film’s charm (even if perhaps not its Italianness, a feature which would certainly have benefitted from the Italian version) is intact, and, in French, is based not so much on the Italian as on Fernandel’s fabulous provençal accent.
    Don Camillo for me goes back to the years when we first had our big B&W TV and all the family assembled to watch whatever was on it to watch. A far cry from later when each of us started watching only when something pleased us and of course later still when there were several TVs and TV was no longer the cause of family gatherings.
    I must have seen this film seen perhaps 4 or 5 times, and all the collection of them. The n°1 in the series is the best, and the sequels sadly go slowly downhill in quality and ingenuity one after the other.
    Don Camillo was a hero to us, a hero of comedy, common sense and tenderness. Fernandel (together with Bourvil) was our n°1 comedian, I remember when we were older, we had conversations at the dinner table as to which comic actor should get the palm, and we all acknowledged it: Fernandel was more human than Louis de Funes, jollier than Bourvil, more passionate and warm than Francis Blanche or Fernand Reynaud.
    Thanks for having brought this golden years back a little!
    yves

    • Yves, what you say about you automatically thinking of Don Camillo as a French film makes sense to me, because of the presence of Fernandel (whom I must confess I haven’t seen before, but would love to watch in more films!), and of course, Duvivier’s direction… but for me, the revelation that it was a Franco-Italian film came as a total surprise. “French?!” was my first reaction, when I tracked down this film. “What on earth were the French doing in an Italian film?”

      Because, for me, Giovanni Guareschi and all his characters are so quintessentially Italian. I first read a Guareschi short story (called The Apple Tree) when I was in school, and completely fell in love with his writing, right then. So when my cousin told me about the Don Camillo books and offered to lend them to me, I was very keen. And they were so brilliantly, resoundingly Italian!

      But, whatever: I thought Fernandel did a magnificent job in Don Camillo (though, having watched the Italian version, I should probably also applaud whoever dubbed for him). Thank you, by the way, for sharing your memories of watching films on TV in the good old days. It sounds familiar!

      You mentioned Fernandel and Bourvil as being your favourite comedians. Could I ask for some recommendations of their films? Please? Films that I may be able to get with English subtitles?

      • Fernandel has done countless slapstick numbers which we used to watch somewhat inattentively because they weren’t valued very much. We considered some of his later productions as the best, for example Topaze, The cow and I (La vache et le prisonnier), Happy he who like Ulysses (his last movie), Croesus, Sénéchal the magnificent. He has also been in rather pathetic movies such as La bourse et la vie (Your money or your life). He’s well known for the personification of provençal characters, especially those taken from Marcel Pagnol’s novels (Simplet, Naïs).

        As far as Bourvil is concerned, there is La traversée de Paris (Four bags full); he plays with Fernandel in La cuisine au beurre (the two of them were rarely put together, I don’t know why), a very funny comedy, and naturally there’s La grande vadrouille, an evergreen blockbuster which still shows on French TV (I watched it “again” with my son two days ago as part of the New Year programmes) but which I’m not quite sure would be appreciated outside a French audience! You could also try Un drôle de paroissien (An unusual parishoner) and Don’t tempt the devil (Les bonnes causes). But Bourvil has been used in coutless other movies where he provided the comic relief and wasn’t really the main man. He also played in a handful of serious movies, and his last, The red circle, is always quoted as excellent.

        • Thanks so much, Yves! That’s a nice long list of films I should look out for. I doubt if my local DVD rental will have any of them – their stock of old foreign films is rather low (though they do have a few Jean Gabin films). But I’ll check on Amazon, and maybe gift myself some Fernandel and Bourvil!

  6. You surpass yourself. I had read all the books of Don Camillo, then somehow in shifting to different places I lost them. This refreshed my memory. I loved Don Camillo series, it was the best in humour and wit. I was not aware there were films also based on the books. You have given me something to make efforts to look up for the books and the movies. Thanks a lot.

    • Thank you, AK! I was so happy when I finally got hold of this film, because the Don Camillo books are absolutely unbeatable as a combination of humour and real life – I love the way Guareschi balances out the harsh realities of life (the poverty, the conflict between communism and traditionalism, and so on) with fun.

      And the movie is a very good adaptation of the book.

    • Sharmi, I so understand what you mean! The only way I’m going to be able to watch the number of films I would like is to give up everything else – including sleep.

    • I’ve already ordered my Omnibus with 3 novels. It’s a 1955 publication. Long live ebay :)
      It’s also available at amazon.co.uk, but double the price and some more.

      • I do hope you enjoy the books, pacifist! Personally, I find the Don Camillo books the perfect antidote for a fit of the blues – they’re so heartwarming, funny and sweet that they always leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. :-)

  7. I had never heard of Don Camillo so far. Thank you for introducing me this world of Don Camillo. I already started reading The Little World of Don Camillo online and am loving it. I hope I get to watch the movie too someday.

    • I’m glad you’re liking The Little World of Don Camillo. sunheriyaadein. This film is, specifically, the screen adaptation of that book – and I must say that’s it a very good adaptation, because it retains the sweetness and poignancy of the book wonderfully.

  8. I’m glad there are still people in the world with taste! I found your site while searching to see why these films have never been shown on UK TV. I did not even know they existed until recently, but I have read the books since I was a child. They were always in my mother’s bookcase and, when I asked her what she thought of them, she said, “I never managed to read them. They came out when I was bringing you lot up, so I never had the time.” I have just bought the films (from France, at half the price of the UK), and they are just as you say – faultless. The more you watch them, the more you realise how well they are made. Even Peppone getting off his motorcycle acts as if he has ridden it all his life. Small details like that show the effort that went into making it. I will now badger Film 4 to see why they have not shown these wonders.

    • I’ve been a little cautious about buying the rest of the films, because I’d heard that the rest weren’t as good as this first one was. But if you say they’re faultless, then I’ll certainly buy them. High time I rewatched this one, come to think of it… it’s such an absolutely wonderful film.

      • I would hate to be responsible for you spending money and then regretting it! I don’t think I have ever seen a film that was as good as the book, because your mind can conjure up so many images, but these ones come pretty close. I have emailed Film4, to try and find out why we have never seen these films on TV. I will keep you posted.

        • One important reason for my loving this film so much was that it was so close to what I’d imagined the little village in the Po Valley to be when I read Guareschi’s books. I guess the fact that he actually helped write the screenplay is probably why that happened.

          I do have some gift certificates that I can redeem on Amazon, so I just might buy the rest of the films.

          • Well, Film4 replied with a very polite letter. (Try getting a reply of any sort from the BBC). It seems they have not purchased the rights to the films, so they will never be shown in the UK. At least I have them now, so can watch when I wish, but what a shame the rest of the public here in the UK do not have them brought to their attention. We have NetFlix now, and I think they may have one of the films available, although it’s difficult to find exactly what they do have. Happy viewing.

            • Ah, well. At least you got a reply from them… I will have to buy the films if I want to watch them, because here in India, films shown on TV are invariably either Bollywood or Hollywood – very few foreign films (other than kung fu movies dubbed in English) seem to be shown.

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