Farinelli: Il Castrato (1994)L Belgium’s Oscar Nominated Film

Belgium (Miramax release)


This bizarre, Oscar-nominated film from Belgium, directed by Gerard Corbiau, centers on Farinelli, an 18th century astounding opera singer whose voice was a result of accidental castration as a young boy.


Based on the script by Corbiau and his wife Andree, the film has a fascinating story to tell, relating a Freudian rivalry tale between Farinelli and two men, the composer George Frederick Handel and his own brother, Riccardo.  But the director lacks the technical skills for an engaging dramatic feature, resulting in what in Variety we used to call a “curio.”


Another director would have emphasized the irony of a man, who sings like a woman and arouses others to the level of ecstasy that he himself cannot achieve due to his physiological limitations.


Visually, the movie is handsome to look at and the music is nice to listen to, and the story is never less than awkward and bizarre.


End Note


Reportedly the practice of intentional castration in order to produce Farinelli-like soprano voice by men prevailed until the twentieth century, when the Pope banned it.


Oscar Nominations: 1


Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar


Oscar Alert:


The winner was the Russian film, “Burnt by the Sun,” by Nikita Mikhalkov, which previously had won the Cannes Film fest Palme d’Or. The other nominees were: Before the Rain from the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man Woman” from Taiwan, and the Cuban gay tale, “Strawberry and Chocolate.”