Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974
Brother Sun, Sister Moon:
Brother Sun, Sister Moon:
The first effect of a film like Brother Sun, Sister Moon is to make you want to give away all your possessions. You get the feeling that it is really good to have no belongings to worry about. It seems like a really good life—simple practical Christianity without any need to go the whole hog and completely abdicate ones common sense to some supernatural being.
But then, with a little careful thought, you start to realise that that whole thing is a bit of a have. You remember the words spoken to the monks at the harvest that they should go back to their rich parents for a meal, and leave the working people to enjoy what little they have. It is all very well to get a nice Christian feeling from giving away all your possessions, provided of course, that you have got some possessions to give away. University students, however, generally don't have to worry about such things, since 95% of them are of middle class upbringings. If you are poor though, all this talk is only so much rubbish.
The realisation of this is half of the recognition of the distinction between Christianity and a more realistic code of behaviour. By giving away all their wealth, and impoverishing themselves so that they are better able to love God, Francesco and his friends are successfully solving their own problems. But they are not doing anything about the problems faced by other people. What has happened, for example, in the meantime, to the 200 people employed in the factory beneath Francesco's father's house? Are they still imprisoned in wage slavery, and praying to God to bless the master of their house? What vile degradation1
Zeffirelli goes to considerable lengths to build up a myriad of beautiful impressions. By capturing on film a lot of dreamy, pretty, graceful movements and backgrounds, with happy smiles the sham which is the basis of the film is carefully masked. Because all of this director's art is aimed at producing the one effect of beauty it serve, to accentuate the impression of beautiful Christianity.
And when he is not discussing beautiful Christianity and original innocence. Zeffirelli shows us, through Alec Guiness as Pope Inocent III, his other aims in the film. Not only does he wish to glorify the hippie form of Christianity with its consequent abrogation of social responsibility, but he also wishes to draw people's attention to the greatness and resilience of the Catholic Church. The non-innocent Pope in all his finery wants to see Francesco lead the poor back to the church, so that he may become a great pope. If he is the best the church can offer, it is scarcely any wonder that the poor find it unattractive Yet Zeffirelli's options for the ordinary working masses seem to be a choice between being ripped off by the pope, or being ripped off by the sons of the rich who tell you that wealth is useless. They might be better off if they got rid of the whole system.