Archive of films Francis of Assisi / Francesco d'Assisi

1966, 134 min

Section: Out of the Past
Year: 2013

Shot as a 1966 made-for-TV movie, Liliana Cavani’s debut Francis of Assisi was watched by 20 million Italian viewers; the director was praised for her conception of Francis as a medieval man striving to lessen social inequality. Lou Castel portrays the founder of the Franciscan Order with a true sense for his demeanor and for the nuances of his inner life.


Liliana Cavani’s 1966 film for Italian television is surprising in the way it differs from more common biopics of Catholic saints. It opens with a highly evocative portrayal of life in the shop of Francis’ father, the rich textile merchant Pietro di Bernardone, showing the son performing activities typical of the era’s privileged youth. Around the age of 20 (he was born in 1181 or 1182), Francis had yet to show any signs of wanting to devote his life to religion; instead, he was preparing for a career as a knight. The young director, who received help on the script from Tullio Pinelli, gave the role of Francis to Lou Castel, who a year earlier had played a rebel in Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pocket. Cavani sees Francis’ spiritual conversion and radical aid for the poor and outcast primarily as a form of rebellion against the state of society. From here sprang Francis’ interpretation of the Bible and his founding of a monastic order dedicated to living in absolute poverty. This film about the man who became the patron saint of Italy was an enormous success upon its release, and this year’s screening in Karlovy Vary can be seen as its re-release premiere.

About the director

Liliana Cavani (b. 1933, Carpi, Italy) studied classical philology in Bologna, followed by documentary filmmaking at the Centro sperimentale di cinematografia in Rome, from which she graduated in 1961. At first, she primarily made educational television documentaries about recent history, but also explored the more distant past in her biopics Francesco d’Assisi (1966) and Galileo (1968). She became famous in particular through her provocative dramas. Selected filmography: The Cannibals (I cannibali, 1969), The Guest (L’ospite, 1971), Milarepa (1973), The Night Porter (Portiere di notte, 1973), The Skin (La pelle, 1980), Beyond the Door (Oltre la porta, 1982), The Berlin Affair (Interno berlinese, 1985), Francesco (1988), Where Are You? I’m Here (Dove siete? Io sono qui, 1993), Ripley’s Game (2002) and Einstein (TV, 2008).


Istituto Luce Cinecitta Srl
, 001 73, Rome

RAI - Radiotelevisione Italiana S.p.A. - Direzione Commerciale
Via Umberto Novaro 18, 00195, Rome
Tel: +39 063 749 8244
Fax: +39 063 751 6222

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Out of the Past
Director: Liliana Cavani
Screenplay: Liliana Cavani, Tullio Pinelli
Dir. of Photography: Giuseppe Ruzzolini
Music: Peppino De Luca
Editor: Luciano Gigante
Producer: Leo Pescarolo
Production: RAI – Radiotelevisione Italiana S.p.A. – Direzione Commerciale
Cast: Lou Castel, Giancarlo Sbragia, Maria Grazia Marescalchi, Mino Bellei
Contact: Istituto Luce Cinecitta Srl, RAI - Radiotelevisione Italiana S.p.A. - Direzione Commerciale


Lou Castel



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