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There is no Peace among the Olive Trees

 

 

A 1950 Film directed by Giuseppe De Santis. Together with other De Santis films, it belongs to the neorealist film current that developed in Italy between 1943 and 1952. The film was shot between Fondi, the director's birthplace, Itri and Sperlonga.

 

 

Plot

 

 

Francesco Dominici recently returned from the front, fought for three years and was a prisoner for another three years. The only job he can do is the pastor. His family had 20 sheep, but during his absence they were almost all taken from another shepherd, Agostino Bonfiglio, who now owns 200. With the saying 'He who steals what is his own, he is not a thief', Francis devises a plan to take back the sheep. He involves all his family members and convinces Lucia, with whom he is in love, to follow him. Lucia is betrothed to Augustine, but she has a strong feeling for Francis: she was, years earlier, the only witness of the theft committed by Augustine against Francis' family. One night all of Augustine's sheep are stolen. Bonfiglio goes after the thieves, but they escape him: he finds Francesco's sister, Maria Grazia, who has been left behind in the escape, so he throws himself on her and owns her carnally. Then he denounces Francesco, who is arrested the next day.  At the trial the shepherds called to testify by the defense unanimously affirm that the sheep are augustine's. Francis confides in Lucia, but the girl also betrays him by saying under oath that he knows nothing; Francis was sentenced to four years in prison. On augustine's wedding day with Lucia, Maria Grazia confronts him in public, so the whole country learns that Augustine has a mistress. Lucia refuses to follow the groom to the new house and the marriage, celebrated but not consummated, is annulled. To repair the scandal and also because it was moved to pity by Maria Grazia, Augustine's mother decides to welcome the young woman into the house. Augustine, however, states that he must live as a servant. As for Lucia, she returns to live with her parents. In the meantime Bonfiglio has become even more eimiated by his fellow shepherds for having managed to get rented all the pastures of a rich owner (the lawyer) that were previously distributed among all his colleagues. Francesco does not stay much in prison: he manages to escape with a cellmate and throws himself into the spot. Lucia, as soon as she learns of it, leaves her father's house and puts himself in her tracks. Augustine is sure of his own: the fugitive of the rival will not last long, as the carabinieri scour the whole area. But things are put in another way: the shepherds cover Francis, who manages to borrow a rifle. With Lucia he arrives at Augustine's house. The rival avoids direct confrontation and escapes. Only Maria Grazia stayed with him. Even the shepherds, once bought by Augustine, now turn against him and do not agree to host him, even if they are paid in cash. The escape resumes. At the first nervous breakdown of Maria Grazia, Augustine goes out of his way and kills her with his hands by strangling her. Francis still pursues Augustine, forcing him to fire many blank shots. Finally arriving in front of each other, Augustine discovers that he has finished the shots. Desperate, he throws himself into a cliff and dies. At that point the carabinieri arrive and Francesco is willing to let himself be arrested, but the marshal understood that the real culprit of everything was Augustine, so he promises that the trial will be redone. At that point Francis can hope for a new life, more just, together with Lucia. 

 

Criticism

 

Gianni Rondolino in the Bolaffi Catalogue of Italian cinema volume 1° 1969, «De Santis's third film is still a social story in which the struggle of the individual against a conformist and pavida, unsocial and individualistic community, proposes the only possible solution against injustice and hatred, abuse and selfishness: class solidarity. In this way the film becomes a kind of programmatic and propaganda discourse, woven with facts and characters who comment on it, but without real artistic autonomy, does not lie in a poetic story, does not make the protagonists live, but merely proposes a theme and a solution »

 

Receipts

 

The film grossed around £405,000,000 (far from the 1950s grossing champion The Last Days of Pompeii by L'Herbier and Moffa, with £840 million, but also from the audience's indifference to Antonioni's Chronicle of a Love, with £174 million in receipts).