Director Franco Zeffirelli must have been intrigued by St. Francis of Assisi, an extraordinarily complex and figure that left a strong effect on contemporary society. Even at present, many people are moved by his visionary message of universal toleration.
Zeffirelli perceives him as a hippie, and to that extent, he even uses songs by Donovan on the soundtrack.
Twelfth-century Italy was a grim and regimented society, but the barefoot monk from Assisi had the courage that comes from deep faith and was able to transcend the oppressiveness of his time.
In this Italian/British-produced film, Zeffirelli attempts to bring his vision of this great man to the screen. The contemporary hippie movement contributed a great deal to the style in which the story is told. The film is visually beautiful, minimizing the squalor of the times.
As the tale begins, Francis (Graham Faulkner), the son of wealthy merchants, enjoys wine, women and music. When war and disease devastate his region, Francis undergoes a radical transformation, leading to his appearing before the local bishop and removing his clothes to renounce his previous life and family before–dedicating himself to God.
The biggest dramatic moment is Francis’ appearance before Pope Innocent III (Alec Guinness), to suggest an independent religious order under new rules.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Art Direction-Set Decoration: Lorenzo Mongiardino and Gianni Quaranta; Carmello Patrono.
Oscar Awards: None
The Art Direction Oscar went to “The Sting.”
Running time: 121 Minutes
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Written by Kenneth Ross, Lina Wertmüller, Franco Zeffirelli, Suso Cecchi d’Amico
Released: December 2, 1972.
DVD: March 9, 2004