Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Italian: Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna) is a 1972 film directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Graham Faulkner and Judi Bowker. The film is a biopic of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Francesco, the spoiled son of Pietro Bernardone, a wealthy textile merchant, returns home from fighting in the war between Assisi and Perugia. Struck by a feverish illness that has forced him to leave the war, Francesco lies on his bed tormented by visions of his past when he was a boisterous, arrogant youth. During a long recovery process, he slowly finds God in the midst of all, in poverty, chastity and obedience, experiencing a recovery not only of his body but of his soul.
Healthy again, Francesco returns to his normal life as a rich young man. However, to the consternation of his parents, he begins to spend lots of time surrounded by nature, flowers, trees, animals and poetry as he becomes more and more reluctant to resume his prior life style. Pietro’s obsession with gold now fills Francesco with revulsion, creating an open confrontation between Francesco and Pietro. Francesco rebuffs offers to take over the family business and throws the textiles out of the window. Pietro, frustrated, beats Francesco and humiliates him in front of the city’s Bishop and population. Francesco renounces all his worldly possessions and his “noble” family name Bernardone and leaves Assisi naked and free from his past to live an ascetic and simple life as a man of God and nature.
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St. Francis of Assisi was an extraordinarily complex and difficult figure whose effect on his contemporary society was electrifying. Even today, many people are moved by his visionary message of universal toleration. Twelfth-century Italy had an exceptionally grim and regimented society, but the barefoot monk from Assisi undoubtedly had the courage that comes from deep faith and was able to transcend the oppressiveness of the time. In this Italian/British-produced film, director Franco Zeffirelli attempts to bring his vision of this great man to the screen. The contemporary (1970s) example of the hippie movement contributed a great deal to the style in which the story is told. The musical score, using ancient Italian melodies, was arranged by Donovan. The film is visually beautiful in a way which tends to minimize the squalor of the times. As the movie begins, Francis (Graham Faulkner) is the son of wealthy merchants, and enjoys his share of wine, women and song without serious thought. When war and disease devastate his neighborhood, Francis undergoes an anguished transformation which culminates in his appearing before the local bishop and removing his clothes to renounce his previous life and family before dedicating himself to God. The culminating dramatic moment is Francis’ appearance before Pope Innocent III (Sir Alec Guinness), to make his case for an independent religious order under new rules. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi
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