The Flowers of St. Francis

Francesco, giullare di Dio

Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1950


Returning from Rome after a visit to see the Pope, a group of Franciscan monks come back to the spot where they founded their group, only to find a grumpy shepherd occupying their cabin. They don’t cause a fuss, merely step back outside into the pouring rain, and take shelter against a crumbling, ruined wall.

The rain allows Rossellini to show the precarious humility of these monks, who don’t even have a roof to shelter them. Firstly, though, it serves an aesthetic function. It allows him to deny perspective, and present the monks against an abstract, uniform background, just as if they were in a fresco by Giotto. With the mixture of the rain falling, obscuring the picture and the very grey tone of the celluloid film itself, these cinematic shots are turned in to bas reliefs - the figures remain somehow attached to their background, with their sodden habits all the same shape and texture. The rain and the mud become the very material of the image itself.


rain, image material.