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Review: La notte di San Lorenzo – The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982)

Directed by: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani | 105 minutes | drama, war, fantasy | Actors: Omero Antonutti, Margarita Lozano, Claudio Bigagli, Miriam Guidelli, Massimo Bonetti, Enrica Maria Modugno, Sabina Vannucchi, Giorgio Naddi, Renata Zamengo, Micol Guidelli, Massimo Sarchielli, Giovanni Guidelli, Mario Spallino, Paolo Hendel, Samanta Boi, Sergi Dagliana , Marco Fastame, Giuseppe Furia, Graziella Galvani, Edoardo Gazzetti, Carlo Gensini, Vinicio Gioli, Andrea Giuntini, Antonella Guidelli, Mirio Guidelli, Titta Guidelli, Laura Mannucchi, Gianni Mantelli, Norma Martelli, Guido Marziali, Rinaldo Mirannalti, Mauro Monni, Antonio Prester,

In anticipation of the arrival of the American liberators, the Germans in the Tuscan village of San Martino marked all the houses they plan to blow up with a painted cross on the facade. Most of the village will be destroyed at three in the morning. The villagers must gather in the church where they will be safe. This is not an option for the many people in hiding who have to hide from the German occupiers and collaborationist fascists. Hiding in the church is tantamount to death.

In addition, one of the elderly residents Galvano Galvani (Omero Antonutti) has doubts about the reliability of the German commitment. A German soldier has been murdered and the culprit has not yet been found. He is afraid that the occupiers will avenge themselves for this murder of the villagers. The villagers split into two groups, one of which goes into hiding in the church and the other leaves after nightfall with Galvano in the hope of avoiding the Germans’ vindictiveness and hastening their liberation by walking towards the Americans.

“La Notte di San Lorenzo” is a fairytale film by the Taviani brothers with that beautiful mix of dreaminess, magical realism, brutal violence and that is so characteristic of their work. Lovely Tuscany is the scene of the hard battle for survival and the bitter animosity between the collaborationist fascists and the rest of the population that is in fact even more life-threatening than the German occupation. The fascist villagers, of course, usually know the rest of the population personally, which sometimes leads to horrific malice in the idyllic, rural setting. This clash makes the perplexity of the victims and spectators of the violence even more poignant.

The blending of dreamy beauty and raw reality is best expressed by the directors by suddenly raising and fighting from a wheatfield a phalanx hoplites, a line of heavily armed warriors from ancient times. This shows the brothers’ mastery of making something so unlikely seem so normal. The fact that, in addition to all the violence and harshness, they also give space to love in all its facets and vividly perform the fantasy world of a small child, makes “La Notte di San Lorenzo” a memorable film.

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