• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    Quotes on Atti Degli Apostoli (1969)

    With A.D. The Bible Continues airing on NBC at the moment there's a little talk around about other films based on the Acts of the Apostles and, as it happens, today I received in the post a new book about Roberto Rossellini's whose own take on the book of Acts - Atti Degli Apostoli (1969) - is one of my favourites. There's not much in the book about the film but there are a couple of good quotes that I thought I would reproduce here.

    The book is "Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real" and it's a compilation of essays edited by David Forcas, Sarah Lutton and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. However the final section of the book is a collection of six "documents" written on or by Rossellini during the 50s and the 70s. The one I'm quoting here is document C, "Letter from Rossellini to Peter H. Wood (1972)" and says the following
    The Acts of the Apostles is the story of Luke the Evangelist, but also of the change in ethics in our history when the Hebrew idea of nature - a gift of God which man must us to distinguish himself from the animals - spread, thanks to Christianity, through the Greek-Roman pagan world, which had regarded nature as something inviolable, which men, through rite and ritual, tried to render benign. (p.164)
    The other quote is from Adriano Aprà's chapter "Rossellini's Historical Encyclopedia" and is found on page 144.
    Acts of the Apostles is, in my opinion, alongside The Age of Cosimo de 'Medici and Cartesius, the best of Rossellini's television films. It is also the 'hottest', the one where the emotional involvement he renounces elsewhere is most visible. There is a broad sweep: the film starts from the centre, Jerusalem, and a community of brothers, the apostles, then gradually the circle widens. The apostles set out on their journey (like the friars at the end of Francesco); the conflict between Jews, Greeks and Romans, initially contained within the city, echoes along the route which takes the apostles and later Paul to Palestine, Syria, Pisidia, Athens and Rome, where the last scene in the films opens with the same invocation as the first (Jerusalem! Jerusalem!") and the circle is closed. Acts is the film of harmonic totality. The itinerary of the abstract idea is a concrete journey where the characters are cocooned by the surrounding space; the male community of the brothers is constantly given warmth by the silent activity of the women, who are frequently highlighted by the zoom; the dialogue, more than in the other films, is used to establish contact between people and try and overcome differences. Rossellini takes liberties with the text of the apostle Luke, synthesising, expanding, cutting and inventing to good effect.

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