Francesco Rosi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli, the director’s faithful 1979 adaptation of Carlo Levi’s chronicle of his exile in the Italian South during the years of fascism, begins in the painter’s studio after his return from exile. Levi, played with a wry gravitas by Gian Maria Volontè, contemplates his portraits of peasants made in Gagliano: “I could not keep the promise I made, when I said goodbye to my peasants, that I would return. And I do not know if or when I can keep it.” This broken promise is also an admission of the problem of representing their lives faithfully—he is unsure if it can ever really be done. But the film is structured as an attempt to do so, offering a rich gallery of portraits of the local characters.
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