CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD (Francesco Rosi, 1987)

Based on an incident that Gabriel García Márquez recalled as having occurred in Sucre, Colombia, in 1951, and which he wrote about in his novella Cronica de una muerte anunciada, Cronaca di una morte annunciata is one of Francesco Rosi’s weakest films. Those who haven’t read the book may feel that Rosi is being needlessly ambiguous; those who love the book may feel he has sacrificed some necessary ambiguity. Even so, this is an atmospheric deconstruction of a horrible murder, to which outcome many contributed, most by doing nothing to prevent the murder, and all of them, even the actual perpetrators, even their priest, who, like everyone else, knew the perpetrators’ intent to kill, washing their hands of responsibility for the outcome. Bridging the quarter-century time-range of the action, from the commission of the murder to its (at least partial) unraveling, is Márquez’s stand-in, Dr. Cristo Bedoya (Gian Maria Volontè, collaborating with Rosi for the last time), who, returning to his hometown after a long absence, plays journalist and detective, conducting interviews and piecing together clues. Curiously, Rosi doesn’t apply his renowned gifts for blending documentary and fiction. Rather, the entire film resembles a fantastic, moody fiction, and this befits its multiple viewpoints about the long-ago crime, the elusiveness of its reality and truth. Indeed, the overhead shot of the stabbed corpse dreamily takes us back to Rosi’s great, undreamy Salvatore Giuliano (1961)—only with added zest: the victim, Santiago Nasar, is dressed in (now) blood-spattered white.
     Bayardo San Roman (Rupert Everett—despite what you’ve read, excellent), a wealthy stranger in town, marries Angela Vicario (Ornella Muti, lovely, especially at the end), whose mother (Irene Papas, giving the best performance) before the wedding tells her anxious daughter: “Nobody loves at the beginning. It has to be learned!” That night, Bayardo redeposits Angela at her family’s door, disgracing the family; she is not a virgin. Her two brothers will set this right with an honor-killing; the name Angela gives up is that of Santiago. If we believe her, it is because Santiago (Anthony Delon) resembles Alain Delon.
     This isn’t Chabrol; the film’s stylistic ambiguities do not ultimately point to the theme of ambiguity, but, instead, to the rash crime in the absence of convincing evidence against the victim, the culture that compels the Vicario brothers to commit the crime, the hypocrisy of those and of those institutions (including the law and the Church) that permits the crime to go forward, the complicity of so many “innocents,” including Santiago, who (whether for guilt, honor or love) barely lifts a finger in his own defense.

One thought on “CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD (Francesco Rosi, 1987)

  1. I’m teaching CDF with an International Baccalaureate class and came across your site, searching for images from the film – I love the book and the film is disappointing although good eye-candy! I really missed all the autopsy style gore of the book! Thanks for your informative post.

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