Tuesday, July 02, 2013

La porta del cielo / The Gate of Heaven

IT 1945. D: Vittorio De Sica. SC: Cesare Zavattini, Diego Fabbri, Vittorio De Sica, Adolfo Franci, Carlo Musso. DP: Aldo Tonti. ED: Mario Bonotti. AD: Salvo D'Angelo. M: Enzo Masetti. S: Mario Amari. C: Marina Berti (la crocerossina), Elettra Druscovich (Filomena, la governante), Giuseppe Forcina (l'ingegnere), Massimo Girotti (il giovane cieco), Giovanni Grasso (il commerciante paralitico), Roldano Lupi (Giovanni Brandacci, il pianista), Maria Mercader (Maria), Carlo Ninchi (accompagnatore del cieco), Elli Parvo (signora provocante). P: Corrado Conti di Senigallia, Salvo D'Angelo per Orbis Film. Premiere: 15 febbraio 1945. 35 mm. 85'. B&w. Da: CSC - Cineteca Nazionale. Cinema Jolly, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, e-subtitles in English, 2 July 2013

Presented by Emiliano Morreale (CSC - Cineteca Nazionale) and Manuel De Sica

"The shooting of the film extended throughout the entire period of Nazi occupation. At a certain point though, we were really just barely hanging on. I was afraid the SS would come and take us all and send us to concentration camps to end the farce once and for all. [...] We were shooting outside of the basilica of San Paolo. The clapper boy came over to me, it was about five in the afternoon. "Dottore, are we going to start shooting?" he asks. I answer with the usual question I repeated for months: "Is everyone rested up?". The clapper boy was about to say something when I heard a loud explosion in the distance. I tried to get a handle on where it came from and realized it was coming from where we hoped, where the British and Americans were. It was the sound of their cannons. So I let out a shout that made everyone jump to their feet: "You haven't done anything for months! Shame on you! We have to finish this film!"." Vittorio De Sica, interview by Armando Stefani, Per salvarmi dalle 'SS' girai un 'Kolossal', "T7", July 6, 1969

"La porta del cielo is a story of miracles. The first miracle - it seems to me - is the film itself, finished  after seven months of production under the most trying circumstances. [...] One need only remember that three days ago, while only a few kilometers away the battle for Rome was being decided, eight hundred or so extras and crew members were following orders from their director inside the basilica of San Paolo, intent on shooting, showing a disdain for the war that only Archimedes might have shared. "I locked everyone in", De Sica recalls, "or someone might have run away". And he laughs as if it were a great joke. [...] A 'white' train leaves Loreto with its injured and infirm passengers. Among them we find a boy, an old salesman, a girl, a pianist, an elderly maid, and a blind young man: all of them are traveling, bearing a secret optimism in the hope of some miracle. We will see that the miracle is not to be, but on this trip all will find, through their contact with others in hardship, the necessary faith to deal with their own difficulty. [...] De Sica knows how to imbue his work with such life and poignant observation that it is truly accomplished. It might have been so easy to make the mistake with this film by relying on the essential nobleness of its premise: De Sica didn't do this because he succeeded in remaining true to himself. That child who is picked up and carried into the compartment, who smiles excusing himself for his infirmity, those young travelers who highlight the arrival in Naples by singing nostalgically, as happened so often in real life, that sordid southern alley, the false cheerfulness of the blind man, are all products of a perceptive eye, a sensitivity which brings the grace to this film, the truth to the events and allow it to avoid any tendency toward bombast." Ennio Flaiano, La porta del cielo, "Domenica", n. 18, May 6, 1945, now  in Lettere d'amore al cinema, Rizzoli, 1978

Gian Luca Farinelli introduced Emiliano Morrealo and Manuel De Sica. Emiliano Morrealo told how La porte del cielo disappeared for a long time until it was found again. Manuel De Sica referred to his book Di figlio in padre (2013) where he tells about the role of his mother, Maria Mercader, in persuading the producer to let Vittorio De Sica direct this film. Maria Mercader felt that she was clothed in too masculine a way in her role in the movie.

The story of a train journey of sick and injured pilgrims to Loreto, a place of miracles. The film consists mainly of episodes about pilgrims: - a little abandoned boy with cerebral palsy - an old nanny who sneaks in because the master of the house threatens to expose the truth about the deceased mother to the children who blindly worship her memory - a virtuoso pianist whose hand is paralyzed - and a handsome worker at an ice factory (Massimo Girotti) who played a joke on the boss, exposing the shallowness of the love of a flirtatious woman, and the boss, in retaliation, blinded him with gas - there is also a montage of inner monologues of other passengers. The conclusion is at Loreto, where a miracle happens: a pilgrim who had been confined to a wheelchair walks. "But peace of mind is a miracle, too". The suicidal pianist gives up his pistol. The boss confesses that he is the one who blinded Girotti.

The film Vittorio De Sica directed before Sciuscià is a moving one (one does not have to be religious to like it), and important evidence that his neorealistic approach did not emerge out of the blue but was already rooted in films such as this (the story of the train journey, the circumstances of the abandoned boy, the realistic account of the ice factory).

The print is complete. It has been struck from a challenging source, and there is a duped look. There was some trouble with the soundtrack in the print or in the screening.

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