Imprisonment leads an Italian merchants son to religious awakening, in a portrait of St. Francis of Assisi.
Francesco is a 1989 docu-drama relating in flashback St. Francis of Assisis evolution from rich mans son to religious humanitarian and finally to full-fledged saint. The film was based on Hermann Hesses Francis of Assisi, which director Liliana Cavani had previously filmed in 1966. It was shot in the Italian region of Abruzzo and it stars Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter. Greek composer, Vangelis, provided the musical score.
Raised as the pampered son of a merchant, Francis goes off to war, only to return with a profound horror for the society which generated such suffering. In one scene, as an act of renunciation, he strips himself of his fine clothing in front of his father, and leaves the house naked and barefoot, joining the lepers and beggars in the poor section of town. A series of episodes from Francis life follows, rather than a coherent narrative, until his final days when he receives the stigmata, the wounds Christ suffered at the crucifixion.
The film won three awards and was nominated for a fourth. Danilo Donati won the 1989 David di Donatello Award for Best Production Design, and the 1989 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon also for Best Production Design. Fabio Bussotti won the Syndicates Best Supporting Actor Award. Director Liliana Cavani was nominated for the Golden Palm at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.
The life of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) as related by followers who gather after his death to tell stories so that Leone can record them: a privileged and virile youth, a prisoner of war, an heir who turns away from his father and gives all to the poor, a beggar for others, and an inspiration to friends who accept the Gospels' life of poverty. He seeks the Pope's blessing, and he endures persecution at the hands of the family of Chiara Offreduccio (1194-1253), who becomes St. Clare. Many join the order he has established and then rebel at his expectations. In near despair - and ill - he writes a Rule to take to the Pope; then, the Lord sends him a message. He dies smiling.