Faith is the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force whereby we live. Leo Tolstoy
Baron Sergio Guiramondo (Julian Sands) is a well-respected nobleman dedicated to his fiancée Countess Cristina (Nasstasja Kinski). Introduced to the Countess by King Charles (Rudiger Vogler) Sergio is ready to create a family and his life is full of joy and laughter. Days before the wedding, however, the Countess confesses to him that for a year she has been the King's secret mistress. Sergio, deeply hurt and disgusted by the confession, decides to abandon all marriage plans and instead attempts to find inner peace by becoming a monk. Isolated deep into the mountains in a remote hermitage he begins a life of spiritual healing. Unfortunately, his quest for solitude is often tested by aristocratic women trying to seduce him and mounting rumors that Father Sergio is now a saint capable of miracles.
Il Sole Anche di Notte (Night Sun) is a beautiful recreation of Leo Tolstoy's novel Father Sergius. The film is directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani and follows a typical for the brothers manner--the pacing is rather slow necessitating utter concentration by the viewer. However, as much as Il Sole Anche di Notte is a story of a man with a broken heart looking for solitude it is also a beautiful tale about fate and man's power to endure life.
We first see Baron Sergio Guiramondo between his friends in the King's court waiting to be invited. His love for the King is endless and while playing cards with him Sergio is unable to enjoy his win-he feels that it is not right to win over the King. Between the young, dedicated, and optimistic man that we see in the opening few scenes and the emotionally battered monk we are introduced to later on stays a simple confession. A confession that merely destroys a man that has loved so passionately that he is unable to heal the wounds of a bitter disappointment
Perhaps the most powerful of scenes in Il Sole Anche di Notte is the moment when Father Sergio succumbs to the initiations of a young aristocratic seductress. We see him confused, weak, and unable to control his emotions ultimately leading to a decision to leave the hermitage and begin a life as a wandering beggar. It feels ironic that a man that has endured so much pain in order to forget his misfortune is now forced to leave his shelter due to circumstances similar to the ones that forced him in a spiritual solitude.
I think that Il Sole Anche di Notte will be difficult for many to embrace. This is a slow film that really takes its time to develop into an engaging story. The beautiful cinematography however makes it a worthwhile experience that is rewarding to say the least. The masterful camera of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani has captured the struggle of a man trying to rediscover his passion for life unlike many we have seen on the big screen. I suppose however that this would be what many would perceive as a disadvantage as the film really requires certain familiarity with Leo Tolstoy's work to fully appreciate it.
I believe that for those of you that have seen some of the Taviani brothers' films Il Sole Anche di Notte will be a welcomed addition. For those of you that are yet to see Padre Padrone (1977) or Kaos (1984) this film will be a rather difficult introduction to a legacy of works that offers some unforgettable films. Regardless, it is a stellar film that is well-worth the time and perhaps patience to appreciate.
How Does the Film Look?
There are a number of issues that I have with Wellspring's presentation of Il Sole Anche di Notte. While the contrast appears mostly acceptable the actual print of the film suffers from a substantial amount of grain and occasionally damage. It is quite unfortunate as the cinematography is beautiful to behold and in my opinion necessitates a stellar DVD presentation. I can not help but think that Wellspring could have done much better.
How Does the Disc Sound?
The DVD sound is mostly acceptable though occasionally the supporting soundtrack appears a bit louder than it should be. Italian Dolby Digital with optional English subtitles. It is worth mentioning that some of the actors were intentionally dubbed in Italian as it is the case with Julian Sands and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
The only extra materials present on this disc are a trailer for the main feature, a gallery of trailers for other Wellspring productions, Filmographies for the Taviani Bros, Julian Sands, and Nasstasja Kinski, and Weblinks.
Wellspring have decided to deliver three of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's early films to the DVD market and that is commendable. Unfortunately however the DVD presentation for Il Sole Anche di Notte leaves much to be desired. Regardless, this is a good opportunity for many to at least have the film readily available in their local video store. RENT IT.