Garibaldian in the Convent, A (1942)

De Sica is in a more commercial mode here before he caught the neorealist bug as he tells a largely compelling story of rivalry and friendship in a convent for girls, with a bout of action as nationalist politics get in the way.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,570

Dir. Vittorio De Sica
1942 | Italy | Comedy/Drama | 86 min | 1.37:1 | Italian
Not rated – likely to be PG

Cast: Leonardo Cortese, María Mercader, Carla Del Poggio, Fausto Guerzoni
Plot: A grandmother reminisces on happy and sad memories of her youth in a convent school in pre-unitarian Italy. She tells her grandchildren the tragic love story of her then rival, Mariella, whose secret lover, a Garibaldi soldier, was wounded in battle and hidden from the nuns in the convent.
Source: Cinecitta Luce

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Life in a Convent; Rivalry & Friendship; Doomed Love
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

It was my first time encountering the word ‘Garibaldian’, so a Google search led me to the Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi, whom I learnt was one of the greatest revolutionaries in world history. 

While the history of Italian unification far exceeds my ability to comprehend it in context, at the very least, I have a basic understanding of what the Garibaldian soldiers were fighting for. 

One of them would find his way into a convent, as the title suggests, hidden by two girls and an older man in order to recover from his injuries. 

A Garibaldian in the Convent sees director Vittorio De Sica in a more commercial mode before he caught the neorealist bug that culminated in his greatest film, Bicycle Thieves (1948).  There’s drama, comedy, and in the final third, action. 

“A man who is suffering has the right to our mercy.”

For the most part, Garibaldian is a story about rivalry and friendship, compellingly told despite its flashback structure where an old woman recalls her youth. 

De Sica milks laughs from the strict regime of convent life as the rebellious Caterinetta and her frenemy, Mariella, who comes from an aristocratic family, annoy the exasperated nuns. 

Nationalist politics, however, get in the way, as government soldiers hunt for the missing Garibaldian.  It’s no surprise that De Sica locates a love story within the narrative as Mariella falls in love with the Garibaldian. 

Some might find the film to be too straightforward or simplistic, but there is an easy-going charm to its conventional design.  Worth a try if you are interested in exploring early De Sica working in an entirely different style. 

Grade: B+

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