If there were any reason for dropping out of normal life and dedicating oneself entirely to watching Italian films, this might be it! The majestic simplicity and dignity of this film make even the best contemporary films seem trivial and stillborn by comparison. Loved by sensitive audiences and critics alike, Ermanno Olmi's movie describes incidents in the lives of four families sharecropping in Lombardy at the coming of the twentieth century. Olmi's extraordinary command of imagery, movement, rhythm, and lighting conveys a potent nostalgia for Earth and the family of man. There is a scene in which images of a father carving clogs for his shoeless boy are intercut with the lives of the farm families. The music accompanying that scene is a Bach organ chorale. The effect is almost sacramental and entirely overwhelming and may be one of my favorite scenes in all cinema. That scene alone is worth more than all the digitalized special effects, car crashes, ocean liner sinkings, and the deafening Dolby vapidity of so much of the inane junk embraced undiscriminatingly by so many. If they only had the eyes to see, ears to hear, and the soul to love this wondrous work of art.
The most authentic version on this film has the original Bergamasco dialect track. The newer DVDs from Italy have the option of choosing this soundtrack.
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Life on a farm in Italy at the end of the 19th century. Many poor country families live there, and the owner pays them by their productivity. One of the families has a very clever child, and they decide to send him to school instead of making him help them, although this represents a great sacrifice. The boy must get up very early and walk several miles to get to the school. One day the boy's shoes break while returning home, but they do not have money to buy another pair. What can they do?
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