I saw this on DVD yesterday - a truly beautiful little film and a very loving portrayal of St. Francis.
It's black and white, has many non-actors, and beautifully simple. There was something about its look that reminded me of Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew - though Rossellini's film has humor in it.
I found this quote by Martin Scorcese about the film which describes it so well.
"The first time I saw Flowers of St. Francis in the early 70s, I was genuinely surprised. I had never imagined that a filmmaker would dare to treat the life of a saint with so little solemnity, and with so much warmth and humanity.
"There's one central problem with most pictures about saints: reverence. The aura of reverence is almost always at odds with the way the saints must have felt about themselves. It's as if they'd already been declared saints in their own lifetime, as if every word out of their mouths had been pre-sanctified. This reverent approach has made for quite a few perfectly nice, well-intentioned movies completely lacking in urgency, either dramatically or spiritually.
"What Rossellini did, with such grace and such apparent ease, was to make a movie about a group of men for whom existence is a neverending strugglea struggle to be good, a struggle to stay true to the word of God. At times, the stuggle becomes comic, and I still marvel at Rossellini's daring in these scenesthe way Francis and his brethren jump through the puddles, or the cooking of the soup, which wouldn't be out of place in a Laurel and Hardy short. Of course, it's all done in a very loving manner, and that's why it is at once so magical and so true. We're all ridiculous at timeseven those of us who are declared saints.
"For me, the greatest moment in the film is Francis' confrontation with the leper. This is compassion at its most terrifyingly direct, without any of the boundaries or filters we're accustomed to in daily life. Most of us, particularly those of us who live in cities, are confronted with human misery on a daily basisand most of us, understandably, find a way to compartmentalize it. Francis' lack of self in that scene never fails to move methe way he feels the suffering of another human being so completely that he allows it to enter into him and inhabit his own soul. I've never seen another film that deals with this basic question of compassion so eloquently.
"Many artists throughout the world responded to the aftermath of WWII and the holocaust by going back to basics, simplifying, and, at least for the moment, speaking directly. Rossellini spoke with the greatest and most elemental simplicity to the question of faithin The Miracle (the wonder of faith), in Germany Year Zero (the absence of faith), in Europa 51 (the crisis of faith) and in this extraordinary film about the beauty of faith. I've never seen another fillm quite like The Flowers of St. Francis, and I don't expect to in my lifetime." (end of Scorcese's quote.)
The DVD is available in Region 1 and the European one.
This movie was a pleasant surprise for me. A real gem.