Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Garden Of The Finzi Continis - Nested Illusions Between and Betwixt The Self And The Other


Director Vittorio de Sica presents his on-screen adaptation of Giorgio Bassani’s autobiographical novel of the same title. The film has had its share of very worthy praises, materialized by numerous film awards bannered by the Oscar Best Foreign Film in 1971. It excels rather remarkably on various technical aspects as well, such as cinematography, lighting and music, as unanimously concurred by the various film reviews I have read. Most especially the latter, which according to them (and I agree) is rather very enchanting. It deviates from the normal use of “climactic” background music employed by mainstream films to stimulate the emotions of its audience (in short, I wasn’t really into the movie the first time I saw it) but instead used rather soothing harmonies all throughout the course of the plot.

Also, what seems to be a primarily a romantic film with a twist, with character subtleties making the film not really easy-viewing, had in fact socio-political allegories in its sleeve. Aside from it very political historical backdrop of anti-Semitist fascist Italy, according to film reviews, the garden of the Finzi-Continis itself, presented in many scenes, represents the lethargic, wait-and-see attitude of Italians, Jews and non-Jews alike, as response to the very grave political unrest happening around them. The tranquility inside the garden very much in contrast to the political unrest occurring outside presents the expectation of the Italian people, Jews and non-Jews alike, that the situation would not affect them severely and harmony would not be significantly disturbed by these racialist policies (Ebert, 1971). Yet, as de Sica (purposely) did not orient us of the visual boundaries of the garden, so were there uncertainties in this optimism of the Italian people. And as we all know the unfortunate fate of the Italian Jews in real life during the WWII, so was the garden breached, and the family seeking refuge inside the garden, the Finzi-Continis, was in the end rounded up as well. It implies that nothing one has, even wealth, education and prestige, or one does, can hide him from the harshness of “mindless, irrational bigotry” of the powerful people around him (Berardinelli, 2005).


One social concept this film tackles (and the supposed theme under which this film was ideally shown for) is the idea of race relations. Here the film reinforces one basic assumption on race relations: that the parameters on how people interact with others of the same race and of another are very highly political- that is, power dynamics are always involved.

Yet it is very interesting to start first with the concept of race itself. ‘Race’ is a concept used by people to distinguish their group from another on the grounds of supposed physical and genetic differences (Heywood, 2002). From a radical (but maybe in fact more appropriate) point of view, race implies the existence of biological determined physical and mental differences logically rendering some population inferior to others (Montagu, 1997). Yet, as science today refutes, this biological determination of social divisions (and hence society) is not really true (remember Solly in Europa Europa?). Therefore, the supposedly objective basis of the formation of race is now in fact rendered useless, which in turn implies that what is left as basis for the formation of race are the subjective reasons of the persons who formulated those. Note that the formation and justification of race are due to the efforts of a few people like Gobineau, H.S. Chamberlain and Hitler, and the traditional biologists and anthropologists that surround them, whose size is very much small compared to the millions of people they are trying to categorize.

Hence it is reasonable to conclude that there exists a very elitist nature in race formation that places power in the hands of the very few to dictate and justify the fate of the very much larger population.


The film’s plot then presents us a variety of race dynamics. First, there may occur a state of harmony (general peace and order) between people of different races. This is exemplified by the presumed status quo of the early 20th century Italian society, wherein the two races Jews and Aryans lived together without conflict and discrimination. Then, notice the introduction of anti-Semitist policies disturbed the normal activities of the people in Ferrara, thereby creating conflict. Here we see the second dynamic, where conflict between different races results from a certain stimulus that disrupted the initial status quo of harmony, which in general is characterized by social and political unrest. Here we can see the significance of the one who controls such stimulus, specifically the government at large. Hitler and Mussolini’s decisions greatly resulted to conflict between the Aryans and the Jews, leading onwards to the holocaust of the latter. Lastly, it is also possibly to happen that conflict may arise from members of the same race. Here the reason for conflict is clearly not racial prejudices, since they have common races. Therefore there must be some other form of social division that may trigger such conflict- and in the case of the film it was class, as exemplified by the antagonistic relation of Giorgio Lattes to the Finzi-Continis. But though this is basically class conflict, it must be noted that the conflicting parties are of the same race, and that the pretext of this conflict arose due to the same stimulus that caused the second dynamic, which is basically race motivated.

Here we see the effects of prevailing political conditions over occurring race relations. Hence it is but logical that those who dictate or influence these political conditions have considerable power over race relations itself.

Politics in its general sense, applied to the society at large and not just the government, is basically the dynamics of power- how power is used to influence the lives of others. And here, we saw that the power to create social divisions and the power to utilize them for specific means greatly affects the life of the people living in the present generation and most probably the fate of the people in the next generation.

References:
Berardinelli, James. 1996. found in http://www.rottentomatoes.com
Ebert, Roger. 1971. found in http://www.rogerebert.com
Heywood, Andrew. 2002. Politics. Palgrave Macmillan: New York Hampshire.
Montagu, Ashley. 1997. Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Altamira Press: Sage Publications.

D. Barnachea



The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was known as Vittorio de Sica’s comeback movie, and one of his most celebrated ones. It was released in 1971, three years before the death of de Sica in 1974, and won an Academy Award in 1972 for Best Foreign Film and a Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1971. It was based on an autobiographical novel of the same title, which was set in Ferrara, Italy, the same place where the movie was filmed.

The movie’s overall plot was very subdued. The first time I watched it, I thought it was mainly a love story, Giorgio and Micol’s love story to be specific. Basically it was yet another period film about the Holocaust. What makes it different from other Holocaust films is that it did not give emphasis to the horrors of the concentration camps and the Jewish ghettos. It showed, however subtly, the events that led to it, the visible tension in the air emanating from both the Jews and the non-Jews, the increasing persecution that the Jews are receiving. The Finzi-Continis’ garden became their sanctuary, both for the Jews and non-Jews alike. It became a safe haven for them, protecting the Jews from the constant persecution that they got outside its walls, and the non-Jews from a society that forces them to discriminate. It saved the affluent Finzi-Continis from the racial laws that the rest of the Jewish Italians were suffering from, however temporary. In the end though, the walls of the garden proved to be no match for the narrow-mindedness of the fascists, the Jewish intolerance that was infecting the entire country.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis seems to define race or racial division in several ways. The first one is through its biological aspect. How can one say who is truly Aryan or not? Those who were born Aryans were the only ones seen as Italians. The Jews, who have spent their entire lives in Italy, no matter how much they try to convince themselves and the others that they were Italians, were still seen as someone of an entirely different race simply because they were born Jewish.

It also views race as a social construct. There was a very fluid idea of what race is in this film. The Finzi-Continis were seen as “non-Jews” by Giorgio’s father because of their wealth and, according to him, because they do not act like Jews. The idea of their “non-Jewish-ness” was apparent in the film. The only incidents of their Jewishness were when they were shown celebrating the Passover, and when they were taken away at the end of the movie. The fact that they seemed to be untouched by the Racial Laws may be a contributing factor to why they were separated from the rest of the Jews. When Jews were banned from public schools, Giorgio’s brother had to go to France to continue his studies, while Micol managed to get her degree in Berlin, her only problem was that her professor gave her a low grade for being a Jew. When Jews were prohibited from having Aryan servants, the Bassani’s had to cope without a maid while the Finzi-Continis kept all their servants. Giorgio was being kicked out of a public library while the Finzi-Continis had the convenience of having their own library. And when Giorgio was banned from playing tennis, Micol and Alberto held their own tennis tournaments in their garden. In a way, the garden became their division, the thing that sets apart the Bassanis from the Finzi-Continis. What used to be a sanctuary for both of them became the one thing that separates them.


Another subtle theme in the film is the indifference of the Italians to what is happening in other places. One scene in the movie shows Giorgio finding out about the concentration camps when he visited his brother in France. His brother comes to his defense, saying that these kinds of things were not discussed in Italy. It may be that the Italians didn’t really know, or they simply chose not to know about the horrors of racial prejudice.

It wasn’t just Italy that was separated from the rest of Europe, the Jews in Italy were indifferent to what was happening to the rest of the Jewish community. As long as they weren’t the ones affected, they just let the injustice happening around them to continue. To quote Giorgio’s line: “There have always been few enough rights for everyone..” Their tolerance for the increasing maltreatment that they were experiencing was seen by Giorgio’s father’s decision to keep supporting the government even when they were already suffering from the Racial Laws.

“… we all kept quiet as long as we weren’t hit.” Point driven.

- V.R. Alberto

19 comments:

buagñin said...

The film The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is a story of an affluent Italian-Jewish family who owns a humungous garden and mansion. In this garden, Micol, the daughter of the Finzi-Continis and her friends regularly meet to play tennis in their stunning white uniforms. It is in this peaceful time where Mussolini issued racial laws against the Jews in Italy. However, the aristocratic and affluent Jewish families believe that the rise of fascism would not harm them for as long as they stay apart. However, their wealth does not set them apart from the racial laws of Mussolini. The film shows that even the affluent Finzi-Continis are arrested and taken out from their haven and affluent life.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is a bit different from the other holocaust films I had watched. Perhaps because this film has not used violence to show how the Jews are discriminated by Mussolini’s racial laws. After watching the film, I acquire a different perspective of what happened to the Italian Jews in the times of the fascist regime. I was really fixated to the films that used violence just to heighten the lives of the Jews in the hands of the fascists. In this case, the film uses a calmer mood though the setting is a war. However, it seems that the film left its audience hanging because it seems that it has not sustained the story. It makes you want to see more of what happened in the Jewish families and in the love story of Giorgio and Micol. But I think the director, Vittorio de Sica, chooses to end it there to highlight the importance of the garden as the symbol of haven for the upper class Jews or the Finzi-Continis.

In the beginning and ending of the film, it features the members of the tennis club who are harmoniously playing inside the garden of the Finzi-Continis. In this place, Jews, non-Jews, upper class and middle class citizens interact paying no attention to the race and class of each other and to world outside the garden. The garden is like a sanctuary where the main actors feel that no one will try to discriminate and harm them just because of their Jewish identity. However, Micol and her friends have not escaped reality and the real situation outside the garden. It seems that even the wealthiest cannot escape from the ugliest realities where even their freedom is denied from them. With the execution of Mussolini’s racial laws the Jews are excluded from entering clubs, acquiring military service and phone directory listings, publishing obituaries in papers, having non-Jewish servants, going to schools or public libraries and other places, etc.

This anti-Semitist movement not only disturbed the relationship between the Jews and the Aryans but also among the Jews themselves. The film has emphasized that this anti-Semitist movement is not only to segregate the Aryan race from the Jews but also to create social divisions among the Jews themselves. The film is actually more inclined towards the effect of the segregation on the relationship of the Jews. I guess the film also wants to show the audience that the Jews are also divided in terms of wealth. However, regardless of wealth, all Jews are included in the segregation of race. This is seen when the Finzi-Continis are taken by the authorities and are mixed with the other middle and upper class Jews.

As an instrument for political socialization, this film does not use violent effects that could heighten the discrimination of the Jews in Italy. As a matter of fact, the film though depicts as a holocaust film has not shown any violence in terms of anti-Semitist movement that arises in Italy. Perhaps, the film tries to show that the fascist regime of Mussolini differs from Hitler’s way of segregating the Aryan race from the other races such as the Jews. I guess the film’s focus is more on the relationship among the Jews than the relationship with the other races. I say this because of the film’s focus on the families Finzi-Continis and Lattes. It seems that the rise of the fascist regime in Italy has disrupted or created social divisions on the Jewish people such as Micol’s rejection of Giorgio’s love. Maybe Micol wants to save her family from the rising fascism by accepting Malnate’s (Aryan) proposal of love. I guess Micol thinks that her engagement with an Aryan person can exclude them from the encroachments of the fascists.

However, in the end, Micol and all the members of the tennis club suffer an inevitable conclusion. Though the anti-Semitic measures applied by Mussolini are less brutal than the Nazi’s and are disapproved by a large number of Italians, it still exists and all Jews regardless of class are covered by it.

I like to end with a quote from the film that is "Children are always prisoners of grownups." This is from the scene where Micol and Giorgio are in a carriage waiting for the sudden rainstorm to stop. This quote reminds of the other films we watched in class because it seems that the tennis club members who are affluent young people are left with no choice but to live in a world already created by the adults. Even their garden which seems to be their haven is also taken away from them.

buagñin

me_delas_alas said...

In the discussion of the film The Garden of the Finzi Continis, we might come across the idea of why is that the title of the film. What is the significance of the garden in the context of the environment pictured in the film? Is it just a space for get together between two groups of people? Is it just a place to escape the harsh realities of the then Italian Society? Other than the nostalgia that the garden and Ferrara brought, it symbolically represents the possibility that equality may persist in this world, for the conception of race is but a human construct that constrains human relations.

One of the noticeable stratifications I will focus on is the existence of class relations, a social division that has caused severe political cleavages and has spurred significant controversies regarding its perpetual affects on human affairs. Like race, social classes are in itself unnatural: it is a societal construct made in the convenience of ruling elites to protect its interests and to hold dominance for power and fame. And because it is constructed out of convenience, the relatively upper class continues to enjoy greater privileges especially welfare and social development. The power, in return, will also affect policy that may eventually lean towards their interests. As what one reporter argues, there was racial conflict, but more importantly, there is class conflict within a particular “race” (for lack of a better term). Thus we see the role of the garden as a binding mechanism in which the seemingly unaffected youth confers to play tennis. In so doing, they are trying to create an environment of harmony, even within the confines of the garden of the Finzi Continis. In the end, we see that the social class is disturbed because of the Anti Semitist movement, and we see that it knows no social class, strengthening the point that as a human construct, people may eventually deconstruct its significance.

In today’s bigger “garden”, a bigger fight is being fought. The seemingly inherent inequality among nations in every sphere, whether political or economic, triggers a lot of cleavages to be transformed into a more serious societal conflict. Wars are being fought over, who knows, it might be ideological, religious or any non sense issue one might want to think. Historically, colonization has produced the widest gap between those that bathe in gold and those that feed on wheat and porridge. Now, we see that our bigger garden” has to be like that of the Finzi Continis, but reality bites and this dream may not be soon realized. There is Sudan, while there is the United States. We see the United Kingdom, while at the background, we see Sierra Leone. It is an undoubted fact that human harmony may be next to impossible.

Theorists have been trying to solve these inequalities issues. There are your liberal institutionalists trying to forge human harmony, and your business people trying to address what they say is corporate social responsibility. But how do we really attain this? As long as humans exist, so will social division. The least thatw e can do is to reconstruct the Garden of the Finzi Contnis on a wider scale: a place where there is no such thing as a middle class or poor. As humans, we can only do so much.

For me, the point of the film is simple. We thrive in a world where everyone wants convenience and power, but unfortunately, like what Thomas Hobbes said, some men are born strong, while others are born not so strong, and those with much strength will eventually dominate humankind. In the film, we see that the garden plays a very subtle and sublime part in capturing the message it wants to convey. If people will want to, our world will be like the garden: although we can never get away with societal stratifications, let us not make it a hindrance for human affairs, for harmony will only be realized if one will set aside his delicate skin to shake hands with a muddy one. In today’s world, the challenge that we want to be up to is to create a more harmonious world relations, irrespective of economic and political power, so that the genuine goals of peace will be attained. As what the film portrays the garden, when we play tennis there, we are players, not competitors.

odessawoods said...

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,

Yet again, another film about the Holocaust. But this movie by Vittorio de Sica is a subtle take on the period and the fears it brought, rather contrasting to other bloody and violent films on anti-Jews.

I do agree that the movie The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is mainly about race relations, the relationship between the Jews and the Aryans.
The tournament held at the Finzi-Continis’ garden showed the harmony and good ties between the two until things changed when the Nazi movement came to power. Race is seen here as the line that separated Giorgio from the society. At first, he was indifferent or unaware of the situation of Italy’s neighboring countries and around Europe at the time, until he himself was affected. And more than race relations, it is also a film about class, Giorgio coming from a middle-class family, and therefore more affected. As seen in the movie, he was not allowed to enter public buildings (like the library) or even finish his degree (education being a basic right). Though race is a social construct, we could see the effects on people whose race is considered as ‘inferior’. On Micol’s side, her family was not allowed to have the privileges it experienced before. Even if her father had the wealth, because he did not join the Italian fascists, he did not have the power or influence a powerful dictator’s ‘vision’ and the society that supported it.

Another point in the story is the search for one’s identity. Micol, for example, decorated her room with symbols of her faith. These auxiliary symbols, her religion and Jewish traditions, even her family name, are her ways of identifying herself. I think, even the garden was a means of identifying herself—sh e shared her childhood memories here with Giorgio. This wall of the garden also separated her from the outside world. It was her protection from the harsh treatment of the people against her family, she seek refuge here. If translated, her identity isolated her from the norms.

Honestly, I viewed the film as a tragic story of two lovers (it was easier for me that way). They loved each other but could not go on because they were aware of the threats and dangers against them. For Micol, she knew that they were facing doom because her family was already facing problems, so she did not bother to have a relationship with Giorgio. Instead, she pursued a relationship with the “hairy guy” Alberto, thinking that this could save her and her family. This was a sacrifice on her side.
It was effective in a way because it used a more subtle and softer take on the issue. It was very slow, a characteristic of the life in that town, the story was more truthful (for me) because it did not lack the emotions and the sorrow . But then again, it was one-sided, it only presented the story from one point of view, which obviously has a hidden interest.

mAc said...

Categorically speaking, the film The Garden of Finzi-Continis is best typified as a Holocaust film. However, De Sica, the director of the movie, sought to offer a new angle on the many faces of Holocaust. On a subtle level, it depicted the curtailment of the basic civil-political rights of those who are identified as Jews in Ferrara, Italy. The focus of the story is on how the enjoyment of basic rights and privileges of the Semite people in Italy, even those economically-able Jew families, was stripped-off from them by the government. Jews, even the wealthy ones, were not allowed to marry non-Jews, attend public schools, have a phone listing, join the armed forces, or hire Aryan servants.

The film revolved around the story of the wealthy Finzi-Continis Jew-family in the Mussolini-led fascist Italian government. Considered to be one of the most influential families in the place, they perceived of their social standing as an insulation against the anti-Semitic policies set by the fascist government. In the beginning of the film, Micol and Alberto, children of Finzi-Continis, invited Jewish friends, all of whom were expelled from the local tennis club, to come over their family estate and play lawn tennis matches. Giorgio, one of the friends invited over, was secretly love-stricken with Micol. Unfortunately, little did he know that Micol was already sexually engaged with another friend – Fabio.

One of the main symbolisms in Finzi-Continis was the family estate in Ferrara. Protected by soaring and thick concrete walls, the family conceived of their estate as a safeguard against the ensuing anti-Semitic political climate. The family sought to protect themselves from the anti-Jews excesses of the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler that has afflicted even the distant place of Italy. In doing so, they remained passive from the plague that terrified the Jew people under the clutches of Mussolini. In distancing themselves inside their own estate, they created a false reality of their own where they remained inconsiderate of the changing currency of political environment. As Giorgio’s father described the Finzi-Continis: “They're different. They don't even seem to be Jewish.”. A clear example is on how Micol rejects the uncertainty of the future, which is represented by the outside world, by snubbing the love offered by Giorgio. She sought to comfort herself within the family’s wall-protected estate. What is important for her is the past, as symbolized by her experiences and memories in the garden within the estate’s walls, and what she considered as a haven of security, peace, and safety. The rejection Giorgio’s admiration for Micol, on the other hand, represented the collective failure of the Ferrara community to express its love for its mother country. For one, the starting point of the anti-Semitic sentiments was not of any Italian political origin. It was of Nazi party’s descent. Yet, even under the austere fascist authority of Mussolini, whose nationalistic zealousness served as his guiding principle together with an iron-hand rule dominated Italy, the excesses of anti-Semitic movement still infiltrated Italy’s political system. The failure of the community to collectively oppose such movement provided the downfall of many of the Jews in the area, with the deportation of the Finzi-Continis family as one of the outcomes.

The story offers three important lessons: first, however a great deal of wealth, prestige, and riches an individual wields in his/her hand, do not expect that rules in the political (social) arena will always favour that individual, second, passivity leads to downfall and third, collective actions always result into something positive – reiterating the significance of the saying ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.
The notion of collective action brings us to how the process of socialization takes place. The so-called social institutions – family, community, state – only exist as people actually come together in situations. We can act together because we construct actions together, This is done through each’s projection of him/herself into various future possibilities; each on takes the role of the other in order to see what kind of reaction there will be to his action; as a result each aligns his or her own action in terms of the consequences he or she foresees in the other person’s reactions. In addition, the aggregation of our decisions produces institutions which in turn prescribe and proscribe our behaviour. The institutionalization of constitutional democracies is based on this credo. Thus, society is observed not a structure, but a never-ending process. Within the context of the film, the people from Ferrara, especially the Jews, could have acted collectively together to resist the changing configuration of the political system. On the other hand, their futility to act together spelled their downfall.

TAMONDONG

mAc said...

Categorically speaking, the film The Garden of Finzi-Continis is best typified as a Holocaust film. However, De Sica, the director of the movie, sought to offer a new angle on the many faces of Holocaust. On a subtle level, it depicted the curtailment of the basic civil-political rights of those who are identified as Jews in Ferrara, Italy. The focus of the story is on how the enjoyment of basic rights and privileges of the Semite people in Italy, even those economically-able Jew families, was stripped-off from them by the government. Jews, even the wealthy ones, were not allowed to marry non-Jews, attend public schools, have a phone listing, join the armed forces, or hire Aryan servants.

The film revolved around the story of the wealthy Finzi-Continis Jew-family in the Mussolini-led fascist Italian government. Considered to be one of the most influential families in the place, they perceived of their social standing as an insulation against the anti-Semitic policies set by the fascist government. In the beginning of the film, Micol and Alberto, children of Finzi-Continis, invited Jewish friends, all of whom were expelled from the local tennis club, to come over their family estate and play lawn tennis matches. Giorgio, one of the friends invited over, was secretly love-stricken with Micol. Unfortunately, little did he know that Micol was already sexually engaged with another friend – Fabio.

One of the main symbolisms in Finzi-Continis was the family estate in Ferrara. Protected by soaring and thick concrete walls, the family conceived of their estate as a safeguard against the ensuing anti-Semitic political climate. The family sought to protect themselves from the anti-Jews excesses of the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler that has afflicted even the distant place of Italy. In doing so, they remained passive from the plague that terrified the Jew people under the clutches of Mussolini. In distancing themselves inside their own estate, they created a false reality of their own where they remained inconsiderate of the changing currency of political environment. As Giorgio’s father described the Finzi-Continis: “They're different. They don't even seem to be Jewish.”. A clear example is on how Micol rejects the uncertainty of the future, which is represented by the outside world, by snubbing the love offered by Giorgio. She sought to comfort herself within the family’s wall-protected estate. What is important for her is the past, as symbolized by her experiences and memories in the garden within the estate’s walls, and what she considered as a haven of security, peace, and safety. The rejection Giorgio’s admiration for Micol, on the other hand, represented the collective failure of the Ferrara community to express its love for its mother country. For one, the starting point of the anti-Semitic sentiments was not of any Italian political origin. It was of Nazi party’s descent. Yet, even under the austere fascist authority of Mussolini, whose nationalistic zealousness served as his guiding principle together with an iron-hand rule dominated Italy, the excesses of anti-Semitic movement still infiltrated Italy’s political system. The failure of the community to collectively oppose such movement provided the downfall of many of the Jews in the area, with the deportation of the Finzi-Continis family as one of the outcomes.

The story offers three important lessons: first, however a great deal of wealth, prestige, and riches an individual wields in his/her hand, do not expect that rules in the political (social) arena will always favour that individual, second, passivity leads to downfall and third, collective actions always result into something positive – reiterating the significance of the saying ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.
The notion of collective action brings us to how the process of socialization takes place. The so-called social institutions – family, community, state – only exist as people actually come together in situations. We can act together because we construct actions together, This is done through each’s projection of him/herself into various future possibilities; each on takes the role of the other in order to see what kind of reaction there will be to his action; as a result each aligns his or her own action in terms of the consequences he or she foresees in the other person’s reactions. In addition, the aggregation of our decisions produces institutions which in turn prescribe and proscribe our behaviour. The institutionalization of constitutional democracies is based on this credo. Thus, society is observed not a structure, but a never-ending process. Within the context of the film, the people from Ferrara, especially the Jews, could have acted collectively together to resist the changing configuration of the political system. On the other hand, their futility to act together spelled their downfall.

TAMONDONG

mimah said...

The film is another period film during the heights of Anti-Semitism at Italy. However, it is different in such a way that it did not focus on the grave, blatant and heart breaking tortures, the Jews have experienced. It dealt with the events that led to the persecution of Jews at different camps. In our discussion in class, we mainly focus on race relations, which is basically the most obvious theme of the film. We have seen the relationship between and among the Italians and the Italian Jews as a result of the changing political dynamics in Italy. Race as defined in Heywood, is “a group of people distinguished from other groups by physical or biological differences.” (Heywood 2002, p. 194). However, as also said in the book, it is controversial scientifically and politically. There are no current evidences of the said ‘racial differences’. Also, politically in the sense that race is just based on ‘cultural stereotypes’ not exactly based on biological differences.

With this said, it seems that racial categorization is rooted in the definition or discretion of those who are in power. I do agree with one of the main entries saying that race formation is somewhat elitist nature. In the film, there were no evident figures of people who have somewhat control over the rest of the population. We just know that back then, Hitler’s and Mussolini’s active efforts against the Jews really affected the lives of the latter. How were their efforts come to existence in Ferrara, Italy? It is through the different mechanisms employed by the state in order to maintain social order and stability. It is quite interesting to examine the role of the state in the film.

What is the state? The state is more than government, “it is a political community formed by a territorial population which is subject to one government.” (Hague and Harrop 2004, p. 7) As seen, the first batch of anti-Semite laws were passed through the parliament and made known in the public through the use of media, newspaper in particular. It can be said that the media recognizes the authority of the state. Also, as said by Weber, it possesses the ‘monopoly of the legitimate use of violence’. At the later part of the film, the police force was used to gather the Jews from their homes and put them into different temporary rooms or camps. When Giorgio tried to escape from the police, force was used to pin him down. He may not be part of the Jews who were captured but still he also has experienced that legitimate use of physical force. No further torture was shown but it is somewhat implied that it would happen to the Italian Jews. No matter how hard they tried to escape from the wrath of those in power, they still find themselves following passively.

Using the functionalist perspective of the state, it states that its central function is “the maintenance of social order” and state is defined as “set of institutions that uphold order and deliver social stability.” (Heywood 2002, p. 86) Likewise, it is said that the decisions made by the state is for the common good or the public interest and the state is supposed to reflect the permanent interests of the society. (Heywood 2002, p. 87) In the film, Italian Jews were the minority and the people who are in power, I assume, are Aryans who pride themselves as one. It is through secluding these Italian Jews that they can preserve the ‘greatness’ of their race. The state slowly made laws that could maintain the ‘social order’. At first, Giorgio was excluded from the tennis club. He and Micol were also worried if they will ever get their degrees. The Lattes has to give up their Italian servant as opposed to the Finzi-Continis, who enjoyed that privilege then. In the end, whether they are part of the upper class or lower class, as long as the blood of a Jew runs through their veins, they must follow their fate as destined by the state.

Given all these, the film was not all about the Aryan or Jewish race per se. It is interesting to note how slowly and discreetly, the state manipulated the fate of the Italian Jews to the point that some of them like Giorgio’s father supported the government and justified its new laws hoping it would really be for the better of everybody. I believe that the mere formation of these races has greatly affected the relationship between and among the Italians, whether true blue Italian or not. The Garden, no matter how the Finzi-Continis seek security and refuge from it and how it represents the social status of their family, cannot save them from the interests of the state. In the end, the state is still the sovereign body and the people are the obedient citizens of the country.

Bartolome

alejandro said...

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, one of the last offerings from legendary director Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief), was an international sensation during its original 1971 run (Berardinelli 1996). This film was based on the novel by Giorgio Bassani (Berardinelli 1996). Undeniably, the Italian film “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” was a highly subdued film. It was presented in a very different manner as compared to the other Holocaust films that we viewed earlier in class. The mood of the film was so serene and subdued that I, as a viewer, hardly saw and felt any explicit political unrest happening outside the garden of the Finzi-Continis. What added to the tranquility that the film portrayed in the film were the white clothes and the fair skin of the characters. All the characters seemed to be having such a serene, blissful time, especially when they were together playing tennis. Everyone seemed to be in good terms with one another, looking as if they had nothing to worry about. The film illustrated the feeling as if the Finzi-Continis did not have to fret about anything. They seemed to be having such a definite life of happiness and security at present, and even in the future.

One highly evident instance in the film that defied the certainty of the security of the present and the future lives of the Finzi-Continis was when Micol and Girogio were not allowed to continue their schooling and, thereby, were not allowed to graduate because they were Jews.

At the latter part of the film, the Finzi-Continis themselves were captured along with they fellow Jews, and were segregated according to sex. In this part of the film, Micol and Giorgio’s father were shown as seizing even the shortest moment of comfort from each other.

The film was so subdued, that, in fact, I did not realize that the film already ended. I was anticipating a sudden change of mood in the film – for instance, from a very passive mood to a highly intense emotion. Unfortunately, my expectations were not met. Nevertheless, I still found the film an effective medium for political socialization. In this film, the importance and the effectiveness of a passive film was highlighted. In my perspective as a viewer, watching this film required reading movie reviews after screening. The film included a number of political relevance in the context of Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy in a manner that needed in-depth understanding – one of which was the insecurity of even the highly privileged, simply because they were still Jews. Just like the other Holocaust films, this film emphasized race relations between the Jews and the Aryans. However, what was different in this film was that the Jews with the name Finzi-Continis had no distinct difference with the Aryans. Despite the physical similarities of the Finzi-Continis with the Aryans, and their high status in their community, these factors were still not enough to save them from the political unrest in Italy, with Mussolini’s fascist regime which aimed to get rid of the weaker race – the Jews.

Tephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tephanie said...

Differently similar. Subtle as it is, and representational as it may seem, The Garden of the Fintzi-Continis provides a different flavor to the favorite racial movies in Europe. Similar to the other highly-acclaimed films in Europe, the film tackles the bitter consequences of imposing racial divides as the articles above mention. However, quite differently, the film seems to be quite different and apart from the other racial films in the sense that these consequences were portrayed in a very subtle ways and usually in forms of representations.

The film is could be considered as uniquely crafted in the sense that its main theme racism as articulated in the article above is subtly shown and far more lenient than other racial films such as for example, Europa Europa. For starters, there were no guns or goons shown in the film. In fact, no lives were lost as not one character was killed, apart of course from Mikol’s brother who died of illness. To compensate therefore for the missed piles of corpses, long lines of emaciated bodies, and bloodshed, the film have implicitly or artfully showed the darkest face of racism through the severance of nterpersonal relationships and creation of havoc in the seemingly perfect lives of the people in the heavenly place called Ferrara, Italy. The effects therefore of the racial laws that were imposed were much more on the morale, on the “spirit”, rather than on physical security of the people involved. This was shown through the various provisions depriving the Jewish families from the most basic and in essence the most vital necessities such as having servants and most importantly acquiring education, and in Georgio’s case, love. The repercussions of these provisions might certainly surpass the wounds caused by an actual war.

Conflict between classes was also shown in a multilevel perspective, a somewhat different approach as compared to other class clash films wherein there is commonly only two conflicting groups involved. I saw the garden as a symbolism or more of a reference point in which shows where a particular group stands – inside, or outside it. One clash is between the Jewish Finzi-Continis and the other Jewish families. The Finzi-Continis seemed to have been safely placed inside the garden because of their affluence while other Jewish families of lower economic status have gravely felt the effects of the racial laws being imposed by the government, as the article above mentioned. This was very much portrayed by the peaceful ambience inside the garden, where everything seemed to be perfectly fine and calm even though people outside their garden struggled. Other conflicting groups were the Italians and non-Italians in general. A great part of Europe have been very much affected by the racial divide that was created during that time but the Italians, because of t he minimal effect of this divide on them, have sort of ignored or did not even care less of what’s happening outside their country. That’s two levels in one.

The Garden of Finzi-Continis sure did make a new face of war.

asama said...

Security – it is what everybody wants to feel. And in attaining this, we seek for protection. As toddlers, we would hide inside the closet everytime we play hide and seek – something that would give us the security from being “boomed”, which is something we are afraid of happening. Of course security comes in different shapes and sizes. We seek for protection in almost all levels of our life, whether it be at the individual or social level. “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” is a symbol of security to the eyes of its inhabitants. More than that, it is a symbol of power. But up to what point could this power actually provide security to the Finzi-Continis?

In the context of the story, Mussolini had enacted his anti-Semitic laws. As a part of it, Italian Jews should be kicked out of tennis clubs. And so a group of Italian Jews with an exception (one was in a red bicycle signifying his being a Nazi) came to play tennis inside the walls of the garden of the Finzi-Continis, a very powerful Jewish family in Ferrara. Micol, the young Finzi-Continis toured her friends around the garden, points to a tree and say “That tree... could've been planted by Lucrezia Borgia. Imagine! It's nearly 500 years old....". People who have lived inside that area have been protected by the high walls of the garden. Even that tree had been protected there for centuries. Those walls are the same source of protection that the Finzi-Continis had during that time… or they thought they had.

Those vast area of the garden and its high walls are of course just symbolisms for the exalted social status of the Finzi-Continis. While the Finzi-Continis have been protected by their social status, Giorgio, who was coming from a considerably high class (but far from that of the Finzi-Continis), easily felt the effects of Mussolini’s rules. Italian Jews in general were deprived of many rights. It was illegal for them to marry non Jews, attend public schools, have a phone listing, and join the armed forces, and hire an Aryan servant. Giorgio was removed from the tennis club. His right to use the university library was taken away from him. But the Finzi-Continis offered their library to Giorgio. His father even said about the Finzi-Continis: “They're different. They don't even seem to be Jewish.”

In terms of politically socializing its audience, I must say that the film is really effective. Technically, it used lightings, music, and other visual techniques to convey the emotions to the audience. However, I interpret the main message of the film to be of negative nature. After talking about security in this comment, it was really insecurity I felt after watching the film. It is an assumption that one should feel safe when he/she is at home. But now, not even your state, your race, can actually make you feel that. Even if you’re a citizen of your own state, the government could actually be an instrument to oppress you. And even if the Finzi-Continis were at their own home, inside their own garden, there is a lot more powerful force outside, powerful enough to ruin the used to be institution of protection of the garden of the Finzi-Continis. In the end, they were also “boomed” from hiding.

Now I feel like nothing can serve as a sure protection for any threat. Not power, and definitely not high walls.

Richard Henrick said...

Set during the period after Mussolini has declared anti-Semitist rules in Italy, the film “The Garden of the Finzi- Continis” has shown how such a law affected the lives of the Jews. It has curtailed them of some basic rights like the right to avail of public facilities such as sports complex, which was the reason why the Finzi-Continis are just holding tennis tournaments in their own court. They were even deprived of public education, the right to join the military and of marrying someone from the Aryan race. Indeed, that particular has limited the opportunities in ensuring a higher standard of living for the Jews.

The racial law that the Mussolini government passed in Italy is meant to make the Jews feel so limited in terms of pursuing what they want for their life. However, in the movie, whose main characters are either from a high-class to a middle class Jewish family, it is shown that not everyone will suffer in the same manner just because they share the same Jewish identity by just passing a law that aims to limit them on their actions and choices. On times that push a human race below, those who are on the upper echelons of the society always has a privilege. It was very evident in the film when we saw that our richer Jews could still manage to continue their active sports life despite the prohibitions that the government put on their usage of public facilities because they have their own courts. After he was prohibited to go to school, Giorgio was still able to continue writing his thesis by still having access to the private library owned by the Finzi-Continis. On the other hand, while the rest of the Jews can’t continue studying, since Giorgio’s family is middle class, his brother Ernesto was still able to continue his studies on France. Moreover, the love affair between Micol and Giorgio was still able to flourish as if there is no war that is happening. All of these events on the lives of our characters had been possible through the walls that the Finzi-Continis garden had provided them. It acted as their temporary guard, which shields them from getting caught by the government. The garden of the Finzi-Continis symbolizes a security that only the wealthy could afford.

The walls that both the middle-class family of Giorgio was able to provide for themselves as well as the walls of the Finzi-Continis mansion has allowed them to do one important thing: the practice of their Jewish identity. With the protection of the walls, they were able to continue celebrating the feast of Passover, they could still recite the prayers (which they tone down whenever there is a phone call), and they could still wear and display Jewish symbols. This is again another privilege that the middle classes and the upper classes were able to safeguard for themselves through their abodes.

However, given that there was strong force that cracks down on Jews, at the end of the film, the garden of the Finzi-Continis did not remain impenetrable. This just goes to show that if you are an enemy of the state, they do not take consideration on whether or not you are wealthy or not. They do the serious job of putting you on your right place. However, that doesn’t mean that you are not privileged anymore. As shown in the film, the Finzi-Continis family was placed on the detaining room that was less crowded and was separated among the rest of the Jews with which it arrived together. Acknowledgment of hierarchy in terms of social class is still manifested in this process. Such cases are very much evident today wherein we can see politicians that are house arrested rather than detained in regular prisons. Prioritization in all aspects is also being given for those who are more well-known in the society. This only shows to us that wealth gives people more protection under the law even though in principle, everybody should be equal under it.

In summary, we could say that our actions are expanded or limited by the conditions that surround us. Those conditions are by-products of our status within our own societies. Normally, people with higher class receive the outmost protection. However, we must be reminded that this is also limited by the other factors within the society like the government. At the end of the day, we could say that the most privileged could still be deprived under circumstances it might not have predicted. Such was what happened to the Finzi-Continis family when the laws against Jews was passed in their country.

Agpalo said...

There exist hierarchies, even in persecution

Even in the discriminated or persecuted group in a society, there still exists among them a hierarchy by which how other people within or part of the group treats them that is portrayed on how aggravating the persecution is which is based largely on a certain factor.

The film depicts how Jews are persecuted. But apart from that, more importantly, it details and highlights how this persecution varies according to the economic and thus the social status of a Jew or a Jewish family.

This theme is clear as the audience gets to identify the different characters in the film. We remember that the focus of the film is on the society of Jews belonging to the upper middle to the upper class. Georgio is different from Solly of Europa Europa since Georgio is a relatively well off. The film takes us into the society of the upper class Jews and gives us a benchmark for comparison. That indeed persecution varies along the economic class. These all reflects in one symbolism of the film, which is the garden of Finzi Continis.

At the start of the film we are shown a pack of young men and women, all in white, excitingly and happily entering the garden. Picturesque landscapes, a mansion and a large dog welcome them. Everything reflects of wealth and richness. They all create a perfect picture in a perfect world where everything are as easy as how they play tennis. Jews , more specifically relatively well off Jews (which includes Georgio) experience a peep of a life free from persecution and where they are just in even footing with the Aryans. (Notice how very Aryan-looking the main characters are. This further highlights the differences in discrimination) This is what the garden of Finzi Contini promises and assures Micol and her family.

For a brief moment Georgio experiences this condition of being free from discrimination. This could be compared of his time-constrained visits to the Finzi Constini garden. Geogio’s family can afford to send him to school and keep a foreign servant however they are not affluent enough to enjoy this privileges unlike Micol’s family at the first part of the movie.

Georgio’s love for Micol could be seen as his affections and desires to be part of the garden where he enjoys the same privileges of an upper class member does. His feelings are further revealed as he refused to see the real outcome of the Holocaust when he visited his brother and initially planned to stay there. This is connected to his being apathetic for at least he enjoys certain privileges. This is why every Jew who is well off sees the garden of Finzi Contini

However the garden gives in to as Jew discrimination intensified and later on as Micol’s family suffered the same end as Georgio’s.

The power of the film to be an effective medium for socialization is the films capacity to play with subtle meanings and in the process by which they inculcate ideas into the viewers mind. The picturesque scenes and landscape sets the light mood of the film and gives us a contrast to what we perceive, and how we actually live our lives.

kat suyat said...

Reality. No one escapes it, not even the richest of the rich.

The Garden of the Finzi- Continis is indeed about illusion and reality. It shows that discrimination, in reality, misses no one- not even those who have wealth and not those who are rich. Isolation and escapism is never a solution. It would not give answers, as well as plausible actions, to problems that are dictated by the society upon which you live on.

The film, just like some of the other films that have been viewed and discussed in class, was about anti- Semitism, this time on the cases in Italy. However, unlike the other films, the Garden of the Finzi Continis does not give to us the usual “morbid and violent” type of plot. Rather, it showcases a bit unusual, or let me just say, unique way of narrating how anti- Semitism have affected or, in a more realistic manner, drastically changed the lives of the Jews in Italy. It shows the lives of the Finzi- Continis, a rich, aristocratic Jewish family during the onset of the Second World War and how they lived in an illusion that their wealth could exclude them from the rising fascism and indeed, discrimination of their race.

So what exactly is discrimination? Discrimination is a key feature of intergroup relationships where social inequalities exist (Jackman 1994). It can serve to reinforce the symbolic boundaries that separate the social groups from each other (William, 1998). Discrimination in the film is seen as the discrimination of the Jews from the Aryans. It is started from the laws passed by Mussolini until the time that they were asked to leave their homes and put in concentration camps (this, implicitly seen in the film during the last part). At the beginning of the movie, the discrimination of the Jews was subtly seen- this in the form of the law that they were no longer allowed to employ Aryan maids or helpers. But as the film progressed, we saw how the subtle laws suddenly became more pronounced until the time that we could explicitly point out that indeed the Jews were being discriminated in the Italian society- even the wealthy like the Finzi- Continis.

The garden of the Finzi- Continis, as I see it, is a symbolism of their illusion that because of the fact that they are rich, they could exclude themselves from the social world and that they would not experience the consequences of fascism in their country. The walls of the garden served as their barrier from the world that they kept on running upon. The garden itself became their refuge to the point that they felt that their world crashed when they were asked (or rather forced) to leave their sanctuary.

Indeed, we could not always live in an illusion. Reality is reality and we are all subjected to it. I personally think the film had been an effective tool for political socialization for it gives light to a new angle of discrimination that the Jews had experienced during the Second World War. The gentle and subtle manner of narrating the events added to how the film could touch the people’s hearts and minds regarding the topic the film has discussed.

References:

Jackman, Mary R. 1994. The Velvet Glove: Paternalism and Conflict in Gender, Class, and Race Relations. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Williams, David. Discrimination. http://www.macses.ucsf.edu/Research/Psychosocial/notebook/discrimination.html. Date accessed: 27 August 2007

Uy said...

The walls of the garden of Finzi-Continis were not built by man; but were made by society…
But the collapse of the walls was not caused by the society; rather, the collapsed was triggered by man – Mussolini.

Within social groups, we hold a notion that separates and distinguishes us from ‘others’ – the notion of difference. Thus, walls have been created within and among social groups to foreground their sense of difference. Furthermore, groups do not always identify and share similar interests and motivations with the ‘other’ (other social groups) – we have the notion of distinct identity. Therefore, groups write their own culture within the general culture called the ‘sub-culture’ – built by the groups’ distinct ideals, beliefs, traditions and values differently from ‘others’.

The film the Garden of the Finzi-Continis illustrated an Italia-Jew family that builds their ‘Wall of Privilege and High Status’ through bricks of power and wealth. But was this enough to secure them from the growing Mussolini’s fascist power against the Jews?

Mussolini’s anti-Semitism conviction and behavior has formed a dominant and exclusionary ‘encapsulating’ culture and society in Italy during the late 1940s (before the World War II). Consequently, this challenged the Finzi-Continis’ existing condition in their walls – if they can be able to sustain their high social class and privilege under a Jewish ‘discriminated’ society. But the forceful and superior culture of Mussolini has set foot over the sub-culture that the Fonzi-Continis created in their backyard. Therefore, it was not enough that this sub-culture of the Fonzi-Continis battle against the rough culture. They were still succumbed like every other Jew in the area – with ‘equal’ treatment.

The point is that there are different social groups with different backgrounds, beliefs and interests that may either be in harmony with the existing culture or other groups may be in conflict with the existing structure. The culture therefore considers these social groups that separate itself with the existing system as a threat to the direction of the culture and society. Therefore, in relation to the film, the move of the anti-Semitic structure of society was to exclude them – the Jews.

We all belong in a sub-culture within a culture – both in which we accept and sometimes we reject one over the other. However, there are times that we become helpless and are trapped in a society we do not recognize and agree with. Sometimes, we do not an avenue to foreground our sense of difference – a difference that is/should be respected by the current culture.

Because society builds walls for man to live…
Sometimes, man destroys them for their ‘society’ (personal interests or agenda) to flourish.

eva marie said...

While watching “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis”, I have this feeling of holding something so fragile while being aware of an impending doom. It was hard to get hold of every detail. Many times, the illusion of plainness makes the complexity harder to comprehend. Having watched Vittorio de Sica’s masterpiece – the “Bicycle Thief”, I am not surprised; but one cannot get used to de Sica’s screaming reminders behind the profusion of subtle elements in the film.

For me, the film is about postponing reality. ‘Postponing', because the characters were not unaware of the dangerously building developments yet they chose to deny reality by trying to maintain the status quo. When the Jews were expelled from the tennis club, the Finzi-Continis (Micol and Alberto) open up their garden for their own tennis tournament with fellow Jews; Giorgio’s father convinced his family that with few adjustments, they could go on with their normal life; and Giorgio became aware of the concentration camp when he visited his brother at France but he chose to return to Ferrara, primarily because he wanted to persist in courting Micol – another dream chased futilely because Micol had earlier expressed her refusal to go beyond their friendship and the memories of the past.

I have always wondered why the Jews held so long that it became too late for many. This is even pronounced in Italy (in Ferrara, in particular) where the tension gradually escalated. I wonder: is this a manifestation excessive hope or a display of arrogance? [But this is not to disregard the unforgivable bigotry that heartlessly intruded into the lives of the people who built their lives so carefully that they had to stand by it.]

It is also about holding on to dreams – fantasy if you will – and the inevitability ending the dream because of involuntary waking up. They played like nymphs in their immaculate garments as if in the dreamland or a fairyland (with a soulful music in the background). Perhaps, they were hoping that the illusion of innocence as symbolized by the garden will spare them; that by remaining children, though “prisoners of grownups” must be protected by their families. When the character slowly wake up, “what counts more, in Micol’s words, “. . . more than the possession of things . . . is the remembrance of things, the memory of things”.

The characters responded differently. Alberto, sensing the Giorgio, half aware but tied by emotional loads, is suspended in confusion; Micol, having some premonition of things to come, chased the guilty pleasures of youth; and Bruno Malnate, detached and living in a different ideology took advantage of Alberto’s desperation, Giorgio’s isolation, and Micol’s restlessness. De Sica created an invisible villain that tore the lives of a very promising generation and the ideals they stood for and he did it brilliantly.

In view of our political socialization discourse – we are reminded by in a rather subtle way by “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” that innocence, and much less indifference, will not spare us. And in a world woven in the delicate thread of constructs, perceptions and ambition, there is little certainty. This warning does not only apply to the Jews of America, as some critics have pointed out but to everyone particularly those leaning in politically-charged (as race) existence.

“The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” is one beautiful film – poignant, powerful and painfully honest.

venus said...

Utopia is a term coined by Thomas More during the 16th century. It was derived from two Greek words: Eutopia, meaning “good place” and “Outopia” meaning “no place”. The Utopia is an oxymoronic term that connotes that man cannot find the perfect environment no matter how hard he dreamed and strived for it.

A garden in itself is the ultimate symbol of utopia, built in backyards outside the house yet not too far as to be part of the world outside. It is a refuge from the harms of social institutions and even one's own household.
However it is not just a substitutionary concept for an ideal nowhere, it is also the imagery of security.

Security is not a phenomenon, it is a feeling or disposition that is elicited by a condition where the things that are valuable to you are satisfied (Solidum, 2005). It is generally the sense of safety, where you know that whatever happens to the world around you you will still be spared. It is the feeling that provides hope for persistent existence despite the knowledge of peril and impermanence.

In this essay I will look at micro-level and macro-level cases of security, when the things that an individual/individuals value are threatened and how he/she/they sought avenues that would give them the sense of security and whether they succeeded in protecting it or not, on the context of the film.

A human being values his future. That is why education has become a need, a vessel through which man bases the merit he must receive. His educational background is one empirical evidence of his admittance into the better world, where honor, if not just intellect, is highly accounted for. This was the first security issue that was explicitly expressed in the film, where the Jewish students were expelled from school and public libraries, and our main characters Giorgio and Micol started to lose certainty about their graduation. While Giorgio held on to his value for education through self-study in the Finzi-Continis' private library, his brother went to study in France and Micol went to Berlin to continue being educated. Furthermore, the film also showed how Girogio put importance to his relationship with Micol and did everything to restore it when it was already deteriorating simultaneously with the aggravating circumstances in Ferrara. The Bassini's utilized their middle-class ranking in the society only to find out that even their best resources would not suffice, and on the other hand, the Finzi Continis more effectively dealt with the subtleties of racial discrimination and anti-Semitism through the power that they derive from their wealth. Their garden is the abstraction of their social class, and their social class is their defense mechanism against hostilities that they deem could only be accorded to those who are in the world lower than theirs, who cannot protect themselves. The family was so desperate for security, especially Micol who gave his friendship and romantic relationship with Giorgio to reemphasize the line between them, that considering race, both Bassini and Finzi-Contini families are without escape, but the Finzi-Continis still have class as a category with which they could claim exemption from danger. But even before they were summoned from their mansion and got detained with all the other Italian Jews, they were already given a hint that there is no escaping the doom of their natural identity – it was the death of Alberto, Micol's brother. It reminded them of the limitations of what money can do; that sometimes, the world is more ideological than materialistic, and that sometimes one could wish to be a poor Aryan servant than to be a Jew of kingly possessions.

Felicia said...

The 1971 Italian film, “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” (henceforth referred to as “Garden”), was based on the title novel by Giorgio Bassani, and was directed by Vittorio De Sica and starred by Lino Capolicchio, as the main character Giorgio, and by then feature-film debutantes Dominique Sanda and Helmut Berger, as the siblings Micol and Alberto Finzi-Contini, respectively. This writer would like to discuss “Garden” from the perspective of the conflict theory. The main thesis of this essay is that (from the conflict perspective) the principal mechanism which is operates within the film is the conflict between the Italian Aryans and the Italian Jews, as particularly manifested in legal edicts promulgated throughout society (this time narrowing down to the pluralistic conflict theory).

In terms of the conflict theory, according to Randall Collins (1974), Max Weber has had sound contributions to the conflict theory originally postulated by Karl Marx, such as “emphasizing that the violent coercion of the state …, and thus transferring the center of attention to the control of the material means of violence,” effectively proposing another area of which resources are being struggled for control, called “means of emotional production”. Theoretically parallel to that of Durkheim, Freud, and Nietzsche, it claims “not only that man is an animal with strong emotional desires…, but that particular forms of social interaction designed to arouse emotions operate to create strongly held beliefs and a sense of solidarity within the community … by participation in these rituals”, where emotional bonds are created, involving “emotional contagion” and determining “the effectiveness of appeals for emotional solidarity.” Thus, Weber emphasizes that “the creation of emotional solidarity does not supplant conflict, but is one of the main weapons used in conflict”, such as for domination of one group over another, for imposing a “hierarchy of status prestige … by providing an ideal to emulate”, and thus for providing an archetype for the various forms of … stratification. Caste, ethnic group, feudal Estate (Stand), educational-cultural group, or class "respectability" lines are all forms of stratified solidarities, depending on varying distributions of the resources for emotional production. The simultaneous existence of emotional bases for solidarity--which may well be the basis of cooperation, as Durkheim emphasized--only adds group divisions and tactical resources to be used in these conflicts.” (Collins, 1974) According to Robert O. Keel (2007), one of the focuses of the conflict theory is racism.

In “Garden”, the “emotional means of production” is race, particularly the Italian Aryan and the Italian Jewish races. The very fact of belonging to either of the two races within one country, which in this case is Italy, effectively reveals the individuals’ emotional susceptibilities; and with continued internal interaction, these emotional susceptibilities coalesce into emotional solidarity. Specifically in the context of “Garden”, this consistent periodic interaction is shown in the observation of the Passover, and the young and carefree members of the upper-middle class Italian Jewish community in Ferrara have their little tennis tournaments at the garden of the Finzi-Continis. The same mechanism must have occurred with the Italian Aryans, but, as this is not the depicted focus of “Garden”, we will not give it as much attention. Consequently, this emotional solidarity must have been stronger (or shall I say more indignant) with the Italian Aryans since they, led by Mussolini, have acceded to the anti-Semitic sentiments first upheld in Hitler’s Germany, hence initiating the stratification of the Italian nation, and, eventually, conflict among them, simply by imposing unnatural hierarchies of imagined prestige and ideals. And, going full circle, since the Italian Aryans are the majority, thus they also possess the “control of the material means” of the “violent coercion of the state”, they would use this to impose their and further the conflict. This despite the scene wherein Giorgio’s father vehemently asserted that Mussolini’s brand of fascism would never be like Hitler’s anti-Semitic one. However, even before then, the anti-Semitic laws were already creeping into Italy.

The pluralistic conflict theory is used to narrow the focus of the conflict perspective, this time in terms of the use of the legal framework. This is consistent with the general conflict theory in that once of its main focuses is the “the creation and enforcement of law” (Keel 2007) The pluralistic conflict theory revolves around the competition of groups for authority and legitimacy, focusing on legal conflict in the context of conduct norms, which are, in turn, set by the dominant group. According to Austin Turk, “conflict between authorities and subjects occurs when behavioral differences between authorities and subjects are compounded by cultural differences.” In “Garden”, this is shown in the enactment of anti-Semitic laws based on the racial and cultural division between the Aryans and the Jewish Italians, despite belonging to one country. Personally, this writer believes that the message of “Garden” is so remarkably subtle that it can mainly be observed that anti-Semitic edicts have been constantly enacted during the entire course of the movie as a depiction of the gradual persecution of the Jews in Italy. At the very beginning, the reason why the garden was opened again in the first place was to have another venue for the tennis games of the group of Jewish youngsters who were just expelled from the country club, by virtue of an edict barring them from ever joining it again. The next was the rule prohibiting Jewish families to hire Aryan servants, alluding to the scene wherein the Giorgio’s parents were arguing about whether they would manage without their Aryan housekeeper. Third was the prohibition of Jewish children to attend or continue attending public schools, as depicted by Giorgio not being able to finally finish his degree, and by his brother going to France to continue his studies. Then more declarations followed, making illegal the marriage between Jews and non-Jews, the inclusion of Jewish names in phone listings, or the deployment of Jewish men into the Italian armed forces. Overall, Turkin’s pluralistic conflict theory concludes that “authority groups will continuously strive to maintain and expand there control over societal resources by defining the activity of "subject groups" as threatening (therefore deviant and/or criminal), to the existing order (implicit here is the idea that the existing order is the order, the only legitimate order).” (Turkin, as cited in Keel, 2007)

On a final note, “Garden” is indeed a valuable agent for political socialization because, as claimed by James Berardinelli, “the clearest message delivered … is that, no matter how important wealth, prestige, and education are, they are no defense against mindless, irrational bigotry.” This film effectively speaks to the audience, particularly the Italian audience, the story of the Holocaust happening in their own country, in a manner that has “[a sense of] conscience.” And although this targets the guilt feelings of particularly the Italians, it does not condemn them for the past, rather, it simply tugs at their heartstrings to so subtly remind them never to allow such atrocity to happen again.


References:

Berardinelli, James. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. Date published: 1996. Date retrieved: 27 August 2007. From: http://www.reelviews.net/movies/g/garden_finzi.html

Collins, Randall. (1974). THE BASICS OF CONFLICT THEORY. Date retrieved: 27 August 2007. From: http://www2.pfeiffer.edu/~lridener/courses/COLLINR1.HTML

Hamlin, John. Conflict Theory. Date published: 05 September 2001. Date retrieved: 26 August 2007. From: http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/2111/Conflict_Theory/conflictnotes.html

Keel, Robert O. Conflict Theory(ies) of Deviance. Date published: 19 March 2007. From: http://www.umsl.edu/~rkeel/200/conflict.html

jeejee said...

The film Garden of the Finzi-Continis is not just about the disintegration of the Jews in Italy, or the fascism of Mussolini, but as well as the distinct identity of a place which stood as a refuge not just for the family who owns it but as well as for the young characters in the story. The garden has stood there for many years and has probably witnessed a lot of history. The garden’s tall walls have provided a sense of security for the Finzi-Continis thus, made them negligent in the outside world. The implications of being a Jew at that time were evident and affected the family and the children’s friends at a certain extent, that is, Jews are banned from public schools, libraries and piazzi; they were targeted and accosted by parading rabble; they were banned from tennis clubs, and finally they are rounded up to be deported to concentration camps, which were indicators of the invasion of fascism in their village vis-à-vis, the eradication of prosperity and equality. But the sense of security the garden provided overshadowed the reality that there exists a possibility of the family’s doom.

The film is a comic mixture of bawdiness and sophistication as have been made evident by the affluence of the family despite which, was not able to survive the curse of being a Jew. The garden was a witness of the happy memories of their childhood. Even the society, that is, the people who lived in their village also looked up to them, hoping that they would have high chances of survival. The garden provided not just security but as well as isolation, believing that they cannot be touched by the horrors of fascism. If it weren’t for the feeling of security and isolation, given that the family has more than enough resources, they could have found a way to escape their doom. The walled garden of the Finzi-Continis can be seen vis-à-vis the village in which they quietly lived which was gradually invaded by fascism. The garden was huge but has also an indefinite size, which, on the other hand expressed an unsure feeling of whether you can run or hide in it. Also, the ambiguity of the garden's space is matched by an understated sexual ambiguity. Nothing happened overtly, but the use of certain looks and body language suggests that there were sexual attractions happening among the characters. At a certain point, it can be said that even a huge and isolated garden such as the garden of the Finzi-Continis can still be vulnerable to certain elements happening in the society. They have expected too much from it as a refuge and safe zone but in the end, it still has not made them invincible.

The film as a medium of political socialization gives the audience an indiscriminative view of the effects of fascism. During that period, it did not matter whether you were materially capable or not, the core idea is, being a Jew is being inferior, and inferiority should be wiped out. And even a place so huge and isolated was not able to escape the dreadfulness of the prewar period.

abeleda said...

The Garden of Finzi-Continis is about the “loss of innocence”. More than the usual “loss of innocence” theme common among movies for young adults, the movie also deals, perhaps more significantly, about the loss of innocence of Italians in the war. Thus, the Garden becomes the allegorical space where the ideologies of fascism, Semitism, and nationalism clash and converge with feelings of empathy and apathy.

The garden was introduced as an idyllic place. The opening scenes were almost lyrical in its depiction: taking us on a bicycle tour of the vast palatial garden where there seems to be no land left uncultivated (because Micol’s affluent father deems an “uncultivated land” as a waste of space). The manicured lawn, the trimmed trees, and the well-kept tennis court bespeaks of culture and refinements. It was a private place to keep the public concerns at bay. The garden was a place to rest and frolic, to be hakuna-matata unmindful of the cares and whims of the outside world.

Or at least it was the way the Finzi-Continis would like to think, for before we were ushered into the garden, we were given a glimpse of the wall surrounding the garden. This wall provides a false sense of security just as the garden provides a false sense of freedom from the outside world. The outside world, particularly the scourge of the war will start to creep up the garden walls and eventually choke everything the garden stands for in the eyes of the Finzi-Continis. The touch of evil will corrupt the idyllic nature of the garden and nothing will be left unscathed.

Giorgio, coming from a not-so-well-to-do family was the first to lose his innocence. Increasingly, he feels the steely paws of anti-Semitism: he gets booted out of the tennis club, thrown out of the library and worse of all, deprived of the opportunity to graduate. He discovers that the world is much harsher outside the garden.

Interestingly, Giorgio discovers the bitter truth of the war, not in a sunny garden but on newsreels in dimly-lit cinemas. He discovers about the concentration camps when he went outside Italy, something he did not discover to be apparent within its borders. Italy then, still enthralled with the Il Duce, Benito Mussolini is in denial, lulling itself with the innocence and complacency of a child.

Here, he rails against kith and kin. How can Italy have been so kind and secure as to pretend the war did not happen? Where was the righteous indignation, when the injustice is happening within their own, within their circle of friends and neighbors? If injustice such as this can happen to the nauseatingly wealthy Finzi-Continis, it could happen to anyone. And at this point, the filmmaker reveals his hand.

Vittorio de Sica, famous for his Social realist films such as “The Bicycle Thief” could be heard through the sermons of Giorgio, castigating the Italians for their apathy and lack of moral fortitude to stand up to the regime causing much sufferings to the Jews. In so doing, the film then becomes an important piece of artistic political propaganda. A period piece where an Italian dares tell Italy that they were not so innocent as they would like to believe, that they were responsible for the atrocities suffered by Jews in the last world war, and that ultimately, anti-Semitism does not have a place in Italian society.

In the end, during the devastating humiliation brought about by the arrest of the Finzi-Continis, we were given another look at the garden: through a rear view mirror of the arresting car. We stare at the garden in reverse. We see a garden through foggy windows of a car as it speeds away carrying the Finzi-Continis. It is becoming smaller and smaller. Color has been leeched from it. Rain will soon come and it has robbed the color from the sky. It is not the same garden of yore. Somewhere, the family dog lies chained.

The garden has transformed into an oppressive space.

When the Finzi-Continis, along with the other Jews, where shepherded into the school, Micol remarks that the classroom they were in was once her classroom. It was her attempt to regain her lost innocence. But the irony is not lost to us: No, she could never regain it, just as she could never contain the innocence within the garden of the Finzi-Continis.