Posted by Webster
No post this week drew more comments than the one on “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” Franco Zeffirelli’s film about Francis of Assisi. Most readers loved it, although one decidedly did not. Here are excerpts from four readers.
Amy wrote: “I’ve written before about how this is one of my guilty pleasures—lots of inaccuracies about Francis, very reflective of its own period, but HUGELY influential on me when I was in college. As idiosyncratic as it is, I think that the element of self-sacrifice and single-minded love of Christ, and what happens when you allow that Love to live within and that Voice to rule you, does shine through. See it not as history so much as a meditation.” (Amy’s blog has one of the best titles around: “Charlotte Was Both.”)
Shannon wrote: “In 1980, I spent a summer in Assisi and one of the great delights of the summer was watching the Italian version of the movie, shown on the side of a building near the main square. People talked during the movie, mostly poking each other and pointing out how much older the characters in the crowd looked. It was fun running into shopkeepers who’d been in the movie; I’d seen them so often onscreen, I thought I knew them!”
Grace was the dissenting voice: “I am sorry to add a negative note here, but I thought BSSM was horrible. When I saw it when it came out, I thought it was boring. I was irreligious at the time, and it didn’t prompt me in any way to seek God. Fast forward to when I have converted to Catholicism and show it to my non-Catholic teenage son. He made a disparaging remark about the actor/main character about 10 minutes in and got up and left the room. And I couldn’t blame him one bit. The film makes St. Francis out to be an effeminate (if not homosexual) man. It does the saint—and the Catholic Church—a great disservice because the real Saint Francis was very tough-minded.”
Enbrethiliel over at Sancta Sanctis offered a good perspective: “I remember thinking it was a very simply told tale (for all the lushness of the art direction and cinematography): St. Francis as a child would see him. Brother Son Sister Moon is certainly not as polished or sophisticated as Romeo and Juliet—BUT I think Zeffirelli intended it that way. He believed that when he was in hospital for something, St. Francis visited him in a dream and inspired him to leave his life of sin. It may be that his love for this great saint was very childlike and simple. (Note: if St. Francis and his friends seem effeminate here, that is probably because Zeffirelli was a practicing homosexual before his return to the Church. That he had repented of that didn’t mean traces of it still lingered in his artistic vision.)”
And since many expressed a wish to see the film again, here’s another clip—the final scene between Graham Faulkner as Francis and Alec Guinness (with the entrance of his career) as Pope Innocent III.