Monday, 19 December 2011

Brother Sun Sister Moon

Brother Sun and Sister Moon is the story of the early life of Saint Francis of Assisi in a Franco Zeffrelli production and which interested me because Donovan had contributed the song track including the title number.

There have been a number of films about the life of Saint Francis including the Flowers of St Francis in 1950 which I saw as a school boy as well as another film in 1961. Brother Sun Sister Moon came next with three others following the latest in 2007 none I can recall seeing.

Brother Sun \and Sister Moon accurately represents his early life as the young man about town son of a wealthy cloth merchant who together with his companions goes off in the finest armour to fight with Catholic church blessing. He had six brothers and sister who are not shown in the film.

The film telescopes his experiences of fighting in two wars during 1201 -1205 and becoming a captive during one for a year. The film does cover a period of illness and the apparent effect of armed conflict on his outlook on life. The film plays around with the chronological sequence. It tends to overdramatise his identification with the poor and beggars. In the film his father becomes excessively wealthy exploiting the wars controlling scarce resources and getting nobles to surrender their valuables in exchange of essentials. There does appear to have been conflict with his father because Francis identified with his mother, a French woman, learning her language and cultural interests. It is supposedly correct that he did give all his possessions at one point to a beggar and also sold off his fathers possessions in order to give to charity and fund the rebuilding of a derelict church outside of the city. The film ends with a mission to Rome to see the Pope and ask what he was doing wrong after being rebuked by the local bishop egged on by one of his former friends. Alex Guiness play the Pope.

The film has a romantic sixties slant and introduces early on the daughter of another noble who Francis encounters giving alms to lepers and later during the film Francis and his small band are seen administering to the leper colony who live out of the town. There is the suggestion of romantic relationships early on between Clare and Francis but when he adopts celibacy she also joins the group and later he established an Order of nuns for her with the Little Clare sisters coming from daughters of the Poor. Much is made in the film of his visit to Rome when the Pope is portrayed with his court in great splendour and where the group dressed in the rags of the poor are met with ridicule and hostility and told to address the Pope with a prepared formal dress. However Francis decides to be his true self and impresses the Pope who is reminded of his original faith and gives his blessing

Francis is also known to have established a lay order for those who wanted to marry and this aspect is also covered in the film. The film covers his love of nature and animals and is beautiful shot in terms of the techniques of the era.
Zefrelli was known for his version of Romeo and Juliet and there are elements in this production coupled with the poetic romanticism of Donovan. The film creates a mood of peace and gentleness

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