Three Brothers, 1981
Directed by Francesco Rosi
Written by Tonino Guera, Francesco Rosi
Starring: Phillipe Noiret, Michele Placido, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Andréa Ferréol, Maddalena Crippa, Rosaria Tafuri, Marta Zoffoli, Charles Vanel
Three brothers are summoned by their father to be together in the wake of their mother’s death. The three reflect on their differing lives and positions within Italian society.
Francesco Rosi’s emotive and multi-layered study of three characters – and by extension Italian life and dynamics as a whole – is a haunting, dream-like work of cinematic art.
Three Brothers (Tre Fratelli), adapted from Andrei Platanov’s The Third Son and directed with aplomb by Rosi (Salvatore Giuliano, The Moment of Truth), tells the story of Italy’s past, present and possible future through the memories, dreams and imaginings of the central characters.
Beginning with an extreme close-up of rats crawling around a filthy urban floor, the audience is left in no doubt as to the earnestness of the film’s aims. Indeed, this is a production that takes both a poetic and uncompromisingly journalistic approach in its examinations. But far from only being a reportage on the socio political status of Italy in the early 1980s, it also takes an approach that goes beyond words to comment on emotional bonds and feelings that go beyond mere words. The blending of the artful and the dramatic is key to the success of this deeply contemplative film.
The set up is this. The eldest of the brothers Raffaele (Phillippe Noiret) is a well-respected and experienced judge in Rome. His concerns are largely directed towards his family’s and his own safety, especially as law makers and officials have recently been threatened by terrorists and militants. The middle brother Rocco (Vittorio Mezzogiorno) is a counsellor for a home for delinquent boys in Naples. It is through his dreams and hopes for the troubled youth that we see a section of society that holds the future for a section of Italy. The youngest, Nicola (Michele Placido), is a radical left wing factory worker in Turin, recently separated from his wife and mother of his daughter (Marta Zoffoli).
All three – Nicola accompanied by his young daughter – travel down to the heel of Italy to be with their father (Charles Vanel) to prepare for the funeral arrangements and pay last respects to their late mother. When they are all there – together and yet distinctly separated, both in social standing and political ideas – the film takes us on a journey through their innermost thoughts and concerns.
The film is at its best and most effective when the visual palette gives balance to the intense political and philosophical arguments on display. Using the young Marta as an echo of her grandmother in the thoughts of her grandfather holds a powerful pull, and it one of the most impressive sections of the piece. Her love of the farm and a simple, rural life in the south of Italy and an almost psychic link to her grandmother is captured beautifully in two scenes. The first follows Marta as she explores her grandfather’s farm. She plays with the fine grain seed and covers her hands in the vital farming resource . This scene is echoed in her grandfather’s reminiscences of his late wife. She appears in his memory at a day they spend at the beach. The camera follows her, delicately observing as she buries her hands deep in the sand. It is this sort of visual poetry, and a sensitivity to familial concerns, that makes the film well worthy of investigation.
Three Brothers is available now on dual format Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Films.
- Brand new 2K restoration from original film materials
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional newly translated English subtitles
- Archival interview with Francesco Rosi
- Original theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
- Booklet featuring an essay by Professor Millicent Martin, a 1981 interview with Rosi and a selection of contemporary reviews (first printing only)
Robert W Monk
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/197064794″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=false” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]