Galileo Galilei (1969) 




Director:  Liliana Cavani

Starring:  Cyril Cusack (Galileo), Georgi Kaloyanchev (Giordano Bruno), Nikolay Doychev (Belarmin), Miroslav Mindov (Kardinal Bordzhiya), Georgi Cherkelov (Toskana's ambasador), Mikhail Mikhajlov (Sarpi), Nevena Kokanova (Galileo's Mistress), Nikolai Ouzounov (Kardinal Chentino), Plamen Ciarov (Priest), Mila Dimitrova (Mother), Beniesc Mois (Surveyor), Vladimir Davcev (Priest), Paolo Graziosi (Bernini), Gigi Ballista (Trial Judge), Lou Castel (Friar).

 Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Rome, Italy.  1600.  In the time of Galileo, people believed that the earth was the center of the universe.  Bruno Guridano had to recant for daring to disagree with this basic idea. 

Padua, Italy.  1605.  Galileo explains to his class that a newly discovered star is moving away from the earth.  A man in the audience known as Colomb  objects saying that everything is in a fixed position, that the heavens are fixed. 

The Grand Dutchess Christine (of the powerful and influential Medici family) of Florence would like Galileo to be her son Prince Cosim Medici's new tutor.  Galileo is a little wary of the idea. 

Colomb plans retribution on Galileo. 

Galileo's brother asks him for money.  Galileo then receives a subpoena saying that he is behind in his dowry payments and cannot go to Florence. 

Galileo pays a visit to Father Sarapi.  He asks him what this is all about:  "I hate tutoring."  The father tells Galileo that the Medici family might be able to snuff out the court case for him.  The Grand Duchess prevails.  She later explains to Galileo that she wants the best minds available to teach her son.  She likes the idea that Galileo will turn her boy into a questioner not an accepter. 

The Prince, however, is a bit of a pain in the ass.  He is spoiled, arrogant and disrespectful.  The kid tells Galileo that he likes the ideas of Aristotle.  Galileo asks the Prince:  if a light object and a heavy object are dropped at the same time from the same height, which object will hit the ground first?  The Prince says the heavy object will land first.  For the Prince Galileo sets up an experiment that proves that the two objects land at the same time proving Aristotle wrong on this point. 

The Prince becomes a little nicer to Galileo.  He tells him about some new lenses that can magnify objects.  Galileo is inspired by the idea and he experiments with new lenses to magnify objects.  Galileo makes such good progress that he is able to give the Venetian Doge a telescope.  The man is so excited about the gift that he tells Galileo that he will recommend lifetime employment and a substantial increase in salary for the scientist.  This, of course, makes Colomb extremely angry.

Galileo takes up the study of acceleration.  He gets so involved in the work that the Prince has to meet with him to ask him why he has not shown up for classes for two weeks.  Galileo explains the situation to the Prince and then shows him the moon through a telescope.  He also talks of the moons of Jupiter.  Galileo then adds that our own moon rotates around the earth.

Galileo wants to test Aristotle's theories on flotation.  He tells the Prince that this time he will defend Galileo against Colomb.  At the trail, Colomb explains that shape determines whether an object floats or sinks.  Those objects that are flat and thin float.  He throws such objects into a pool of water and they do float.  He then puts an object in the water that is neither flat or thin and it sinks.  The Prince explains to the crowd around the demonstration that it is the density of objects that determines if they will float or not.  He throws a block of ice in the water and explains that ice floats because it is less dense than water.  Colomb is shocked at his defeat and manages to fall into the tub of water. 

Copernicus said that the earth revolved around the sun and that it was a sun-centered universe.  The Polish scientist, afraid of the Inquisition, did not publish his book until he was on his death bed.  Galileo agrees with Copernicus, but Colomb tells Father Sarapi that this is heresy and that he will report Galileo to the Inquisition.  Sarapi tells the man to go back to his hole. 

Colomb looks for a weak link in order to harm Galileo.  He decides that his weak link is his irresponsible brother.  He asks the naive brother to find Galileo's manuscript for him. 

Galileo came from a poor family.  He was sent to a monastery for schooling.  He loved it.  And he especially liked the endless quiet of the place. 

Galileo's brother finds and takes the manuscript to Colomb, who in turn gives him some money.  The gullible brother gives the money to his brother.  Galileo explains the terrible mistake his brother has made. 

A messenger arrives to speak with Galileo.  Roman Cardinal Belarmin now has the manuscript and he is none to pleased with it.  Galileo is very apprehensive and says that he will not become a martyr.  He will tell the Cardinal what he wants to hear. 

The Cardinal explains that Galileo disagrees with Aristotle and Ptolemy.  But to disagree with Aristotle is to disagree with Rome.  He tells Galileo that his writings are now banned. 

The Grand Duchess Christine now tells her son the Prince not to associate with Sr. Galileo.  But the Prince tells her no.  He goes to see Galileo and apologizes to him for being disappointed with his refusing to fight Rome.

Colomb enters.  He tells Galileo that he is in danger of losing his position at the university.  The two get involved in a mock sword fight, bread against sausage.  Colomb loses and is told to get out. 

20 years later, 1632.  Galileo is tried by the Inquisition.  Pope Urban VIII orders him to recant.  Galileo was put under house arrest for the last nine years of his life.  He renounces his falsehood and heresies.  Years later Sir Isaac Newton proved that the ideas of Galileo are right.  And then when man landed on the moon, an astronaut demonstrated that a feather and a hammer both hit the moon's surface at the same time when dropped together. 

The movie is designed to appeal to kids.  But it's good nonetheless.  I enjoyed seeing the scientific experiments that Galileo and his student the Prince performed.  And it was good to see another demonstration of the idiocy of most humans, defending ideas that were clearly wrong and forcing dissenters to recant the truth.  An infallible pope or any other man declaring himself infallible?  Not possible. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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