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Renaissance warfare - from "Profession of Arms" ("Il Mestiere delle Armi") (Ermanno Olmi 2001)

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Uploaded on Apr 24, 2011

November 25th, 1526: Giovanni de Medici, known as "Giovanni delle Bande Nere" or "Giovanni of the Black Bands" (because of his black striped insigna), the last great "condottiero" (mercenary warlord) of Italian Renaissance, clashes near Governolo, a strategic spot in the Po Valley (northern Italy), with the German imperial "Landsknechts ", led by general Georg von Frundsberg . Giovanni is 28 years old, but has been fighting almost non stop since he was 18. Frundsberg (the guy with the white beard), whose mission is to reach Rome and destroy it (he carries a golden noose to hang the Pope!) is just 52, but nearly 30 years of wars had turned him into an old man.

It's the end of an era - during this battle Giovanni will receive a light artillery shot, and die five days later because of septicaemia (after being amputated of his right leg - reputedly he held a candle to light the surgeon's work). He thus became the first famous victim of fire arms. Frundsberg suffered a stroke shortly after the battle, and died one years later, a broken man. His troops, now leaderless, sacked Rome for three days in May 1527, but the Pope escaped the sack.

"Profession of Arms" (Il Mestiere delle Armi - 2001, dir. Ermanno Olmi) is probably the most accurate portrait of Renaissance warfare. Olmi, the director, painstakingly reconstructed not only the events, but also the costumes, the natural and man made scenery, and even the language and the character faces. The winter scenery and the apocalyptic overtones are particularly memorable.

But what makes it brilliant is that, beside accuracy, "Profession of Arms" is a, deep, even engrossing meditation of suffering, destiny, politics, warfare and religion. It's often depressing (particularly in his unflinching depiction of how wars "change the world", but politics wins wars), and the characters are definitely not idealized (Giovanni is shown a philandering and completely ruthless), but there's a sense of compassion for the human conditions that is the trademark of all Olmi's work.

Definitely not an Hollywoodized version of Renaissance (the "300" crowd won't like it), but if you're interested in great cinema, try to see it.

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