26 January 2015

DVD Review - Sunflower (I girasoli, 1970)

Drama, World Cinema
Argent Films
BD Release Date:
2th January 2015
Rating: 15
Vottorio De Sica
Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Lyudmila Saveleva
Buy:Sunflower DVD

Directed by Vittorio De Sica, Sunflower (or ‘I Girasoli’ in Italian), tells the story of a woman’s search to find her husband after war has split them apart.

A beautifully melancholy theme written by Henry Mancini plays during the title sequence showing a field of sunflowers. The theme is also played during scenes of anguish and sadness, making what appears to be a long shot of a beautiful field of flowers actually foreshadow something darker. The films then shows an angry and distressed Sophia Loren (playing the role of Giovanna) demanding to know if her husband (Antonio, played by Marcello Mastrioanni) is still alive as he is fighting in the war.

It then cuts to flashbacks of their relationship before the war, which began as a way of granting Antonio 12 days of freedom before being enrolled to fight in World War II. Both characters are funny and witty, and within minutes, are married. The couple become so engulfed in their freedom together before Antonio’s conscription, that they don’t even know the date or time. The two actors do a great job of portraying a very genuine love, as they tease each other, cook together and spend an inordinate time in bed.

When Antonio is finally sent into Russia, there are some very powerful war scenes, with a red flag flying in the foreground of shots of soldiers jumping from planes and charging towards their enemies on horses. The red flag symbolises the patriotism of war, but its bright blood-red colour has undertones of danger and evil. To show the severity of the conditions on the Russian Front, the red flag is later taken away, and the icy white of the snow surrounding the men becomes the focal point. You are almost made to forget, at this point, that this is a love story, as the score becomes harsher, and a number of men (including our protagonist Antonio) are shown freezing, lying on the floor, left by their fellow soldiers – a beautifully haunting scene directed by De Sica.

When Giovanna finally discovers Antonio’s new life in Russia, a lot has changed, which forces Giovanna to mature. It’s as if the film’s focus shifts from a love story, to Giovanna’s emancipation, giving the film a completely new meaning.

Although not as highly regarded as some of De Sica’s other films (such as Bicycle Thieves or Umberto D.), Sunflower is a classic – a tale of love and war which still holds a lot of relevance today. This was probably the reason for its re-mastering, to introduce it to a new audience, and to remind people of its antiwar themes and Sophia Loren’s beautiful, complex performance.

Sunflower’s 35mm print has been fully restored by Cinecitta as part of the ‘100 Films worth Saving’ Project. The DVD includes re-inserted footage making it the most complete version ever, as well as an hour-long documentary entitled ‘Sophia: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’.

Jenn Spiers

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