Not All Bastards Are From Vienna
Review by Brenda Repland
In 1917, as World War I rages, Austrian soldiers advance into northern Italy. In a small town near Venice, Refrontolo, they commandeer the largest estate in the area, that of the Spada family. This will bring the war right to the heart of the Spadas: Paolo, the orphan, his eccentric grandparents, headstrong aunt and their staff.
Independence and survival come at a high price. As the Spadas resist in active ways (aiding a British pilot) and passive (coding messages) they will come to realize the limits of their freedom. The courtly manners of the noble major belies his maniacal adherence to military “policy.” This can be disorienting as Paolo wonders why the Baron (Major) seems “more like us than our own peasants.”
When the horrors of war are inescapable, one questions everything. Maybe Italy is a failed ambition. Communication is limited. The locals must rely on less subtle news of the war: the pitiful state of the soldiers’ uniforms; the emaciated state of the army; the influx of younger and younger soldiers.
Mr. Molesini takes us to the very core of what war is like for noncombatants. This is a reality that doesn’t often make it to the silver screen.