Starring: Claudio Bigagli, Galatea Ranzi and Michael Vartan
Arrow Films
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 14 May 2007

Jean, a young and idealistic Napoleonic soldier, is conveying a consignment of gold across Tuscany. During a short rest stop he meets and falls in love with Elisabetta Benedetti,whose charms blind him to the fact that her brothers have stolen the gold. The loss of the gold costs Jean his life and places a curse on the Benedetti family - a curse that would bring tragedy through the generations that were to come...

Fiorile (1993) was directed by brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. The film was nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Frog at Camerimage. It also won a David di Donatello award for production designer Gianni Sbarra. The Taviani brothers work in a peculiar way, alternating who is directing a particular scene, though the relationship is such a perfect symbiosis that it is difficult to discern who shot what.

The story takes place in four time frames: the Napoleonic War, pre World War Two, during World War Two and its linking contemporary setting. The basic structure for most of the film is that of Elisabette's modern descendants travelling back to Tuscany with the parents telling their children the story of the curse and how it had affected various members of the family. The structure has all the elements to be relatively uninteresting until the Taviani brothers put their own little twist on things.

The film opens with the family in the car and the father relating the original story of the stolen gold. The child stares out of the window imagining the troops travelling through the wood, when right in front of them the troops appear. Although never seen in the same frame this clash of the modern and the historical works very well. It is a motif that is used throughout the film to strengthen the ties between the present and the past. As the family travel home they pass places which are significant in their families' history, thus the next sequence in the story is triggered.

To further these ties various actors play multiple roles. Galatea Ranzi plays the ill fated Elisabetta Benedetti as well as Elisa her descendant. Like wise Michael Vartan plays Jean and his descendant Massimo, lastly Claudio Bigagli plays Corrado the original gold thief and his descendent Alessandro.

If the film has a fault it's that it starts so well that the following vignettes never quite match up to it. The opening story of Jean and Elisabette is genuinely moving as the young lovers are torn apart by an act of theft by her own brother - a brother whom she begs to find Jean's killer unaware that she is looking straight at him.

The second segment, where a hundred years later Elisabette's descendant enact her revenge on her brothers, is a little more ponderous, though lavish in its costumes and set design.

The third vignette rallies the film with Massimo trying to escape the curse only to be outwitted at every turn. This portion of the film nicely sequays into the contemporary setting with Massimo's son bringing his children to see their dying grandfather. Although the tone and the brightly lit shots of the family initially give the impression that this is a generation which has escaped the curse, the theft of a single gold coin by the child sits in his hand like a harbinger of doom.

Overall the film is a not unsuccessful blend of historical drama and horror film. The score, by Nicola Piovani, is at times both chilling and evocative. The whole thing is nicely rounded off by Giuseppe Lanci's cinematography.

The disc contains only a single extra, but what an extra, a whole hour and twenty minutes of the brothers discussing their earliest influences right up to how they construct and shoot a movie.

Whilst this does not represent a classic of cinema it is well worth two hours of anyone's time.

Charles Packer

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