The Night of the Shooting Stars

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The Night of the Shooting Stars
Italian poster
Directed byPaolo Taviani
Vittorio Taviani
Produced byGiuliani G. De Negri
Written byPaolo Taviani
Vittorio Taviani
Giuliani G. De Negri
Tonino Guerra
StarringOmero Antonutti
Margarita Lozano
Music byNicola Piovani
CinematographyFranco Di Giacomo
Edited byRoberto Perpignani
Distributed byUnited Artists Classics (USA)
Release date
  • 16 September 1982 (1982-09-16)
Running time
105 minutes

The Night of the Shooting Stars (UK: The Night of San Lorenzo, Italian: La Notte di San Lorenzo) is a 1982 Italian fantasy war drama film directed by Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani. It was written by Giuliani G. De Negri, Paolo Taviani, Tonino Guerra, and Vittorio Taviani.[1] It was entered into the 1982 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Jury Special Grand Prix.[2] The film was selected by Italy as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 55th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[3]


The film opens with a mother telling her sleeping son a story from her childhood. The story recounts how wishes come true when a shooting star occurs. She proceeds to tell the story of the Italian town she once lived in. A man and his pregnant fiancé quickly marry in the church. After their marriage, the family of the bride had a mini celebration. The film follows several inhabitants of an Italian town during the end of World War II. Defeat is certain for the German army, and the front is retreating to Germany, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The Germans plan to blow up several buildings in the town and have told all the villagers to congregate in the town's church. Approximately half of the town decides to stay and place their trust in the church. The rest of the town dresses in dark clothing to blend in the night. The man joined the retreating group as his wife and her mother stayed in the church. They head out seeking the Americans who were rumored to be nearby, liberating towns as they come to them.

The bishop wants to say mass with those assembled in the church. He finds only two hosties (needed for communion). One of the assembled mentions that she brought a loaf of bread. The bishop asks her to divide up the bread so he can bless it and use it instead of the standard host. While he is performing the ritual, the Nazis explode a bomb in the church, resulting in panic, people fleeing, and casualties. One wounded girl is seen being carried outside by her religious mother. It was the man's wife. The bishop tried to help carry the woman but when he realized that he caused the deaths, he dropped her and fled. As the mother continued to carry, the husband had returned from his group to be with his wife, only for it to be too late.

The man returned to his group and they continued their trek. They pass a field where partisans are harvesting the grain. The partisans shared their complaints that they're replacing the grain stolen by the Nazis. The group had learned on the road that the partisans can help transport people safely to a city away from the Nazis. The group helped the partisans harvest grain. During the day, the group must hide from German planes that fly over at midday while they are threshing. Cecilia, who's telling this story, revealed that, at that night, the shooting stars occurred, but the people were so caught up in the pain and paranoia that they had forgotten all about it. In the afternoon of the next day, the group was ambushed by Nazis. During the firefight, the majority of the group were killed. Cecilia watched a Nazi man kill her grandfather, her mother, and her father. As the Nazi man came after Cecilia, she repeated a saying that her mother taught her for her to say whenever she's afraid. As she said the lines, a Roman soldier magically appeared with a spear and a shield. The soldier threw the spear and pierced through the Nazi's stomach. As the Nazis looked up in surprise, a row of Roman soldiers appeared and threw their spears overhead, killing the Nazis in the process.

The man, Cecilia, and a few other members of the group survived the fight and continued heading to the city. That night, an older man and woman from the group shared a room, which led them to reveal that they had feelings for each other since they were young.

The mother told her sleeping son to remember the lines, and how she still wonders what happened in the field. Then mother is then revealed to be Cecilia.



The film was given a rapturous review in The New Yorker by the critic Pauline Kael, who wrote, "The Night of the Shooting Stars is so good it's thrilling. This new film encompasses a vision of the world. Comedy, tragedy, vaudeville, melodrama - they're all here, and inseparable...In its feeling and completeness, Shooting Stars may be close to the rank of Jean Renoir's bafflingly beautiful Grand Illusion...unreality doesn't seem divorced from experience (as it does with Fellini) - it's experience made more intense...For the Tavianis, as for Cecilia, the search for the American liberators is the time of their lives. For an American audience, the film stirs warm but tormenting memories of a time when we were beloved and were a hopeful people."[4]

In July 2018, it was selected to be screened in the Venice Classics section at the 75th Venice International Film Festival.[5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Night of the Shooting Stars". Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Night of the Shooting Stars". Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  3. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  4. ^ Pauline Kael, review reprinted in Taking It All In, pp. 446–451
  5. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2018, Venice Classics". Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  6. ^ The song is sung by a German soldier.

External links[edit]