Period Romantic comedy. Infamous promiscuous adulterer falls in true love with a proto-feminist in 18th century Venice.
This is a well crafted farcical comedy of errors almost on the level of Shakespeare, at least certainly on the level of Shakespeare in Love. I found this tale actually quite satisfying both from a story as well as a moral standpoint. Not perfect, but satisfying, because the story is about how this sleazebag womanizer meets his match in a strong woman named Francesca and learns to love her alone for the rest of his life. Of course, the Roman Church is mocked for being prudish (The Inquisitor uses all the language that makes moderns like us scoff, like “vile fornicating destroyer of women’s virtues,” stuff like that), as well as intellectually foolish (as when the Inquisitor rants about heresy being “whatever I say it is.”). But it’s not so extreme as to be hateful in my opinion, and quite frankly, there have been Catholics who have been like that in history, so it ain’t entirely false either. But of course, the assumption that drives the mockery is the modern one of fulfilling natural sexual urges as completely natural.
But back to the good stuff, the heart of true love in this movie is expressed by Francesca, who says, “Give me a man willing to give himself only to me and I would love him forever.” This becomes the redemption then for Casanova to eventually learn and learn it he does. But even more so, Francesca also speaks of Casanova’s conception of love, and by extension, all the stupid women who allow themselves to be exploited by him, this way, “What he imagines as love is self-love.” Wow, what a great insight into promiscuity, indeed, extramarital sexuality, the lifestyle of most Americans. Francesca then says, “My true love must sacrifice himself for me.” And so Casanova eventually does sacrifice his very life to save Francesca and in so doing, wins her love and his redemption. The redemption of a self-centered human is of course, self-sacrifice, it’s opposite. It’s a beautiful portrait of true love and maturity.
This is all very powerfully Christian in it’s outlook, except for an annoying little humanistic addition to the story. Even though they elevated marriage for Casanova, they also celebrated his promiscuous lifestyle by raising up a newly deflowered virginal young man as the new Casanova to continue the legend with a nod and a wink. In a way, this is the viewpoint that boys will be boys, and young men are horny, so it is normal for them to be promiscuous and get that experience before they meet the one they TRULY love for a lifetime. Thus, this movie was a mixture of good and bad, but in my opinion the good outweighed the bad.