Cinema Hall at Vatican Is Restored

Pope Has Seen Films There and Met Directors

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2005 ( The restored projection hall of the Vatican Film Library was presented as a symbol of the dialogue between the Church and the cinema.

John Paul II has seen several films in this hall, at times with some of the directors, as was the case of Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful,” recalled Archbishop John Foley, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, during the presentation ceremony Thursday.

With its interest in the cinema, the Church underlines the importance of film to present the values of the Gospel, continued the American prelate.

The hall, located in Vatican City, has been named for and dedicated to Cardinal Andrzej Deskur, 80, a great friend of Karol Wojtyla’s since his youth. The cardinal was the undersecretary of the Pontifical Commission for Film, Radio and Television from 1954 to 1965, and president of the Pontifical Commission for Communications from 1973 to 1984.

The past and present of the hall, with a capacity for some 40 people, is a symbol of the Church’s dialogue with the film world, said the delegate of the Vatican Film Library, Monsignor Enrique Planas, in statements to ZENIT.

In the hall’s presentation ceremony, attended by Giuliano Urbani, Italian minister of cultural properties and activities, two films were shown, which are kept in the Vatican Film Library and are decisive for the history of the cinema.

The first was “Leo XIII in the Vatican Gardens” (1896), brief sequence which shows the elderly Pontiff looking at the camera and giving a blessing.

The second film shown was “Hell,” a 1910 work inspired by Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and which until recently was thought to be lost. For Monsignor Planas, “This film has exceptional value, as it used special effects of a modern vein for the first time.” The Vatican Film Library restored the work.

Finally, “Michelangelo Eye-to-Eye” (“Lo Sguardo di Michelangelo”), a 17-minute meditation on the artist’s sculpture of Moses, was shown in the presence of its director, Italian Michelangelo Antonioni, 92, who received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1995.

The film, with strong contrasts of lights and shadows, with incredibly close and intense close-ups, attempts to capture Antonioni’s own experience before the marble sculpture housed in the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains in Rome.

Antonioni’s film, explained Monsignor Planas, “emphasizes how through the image, and through the image on which a sculpture of Michelangelo focuses, intense spirituality can be transmitted.”

The restoration of Cardinal Deskur Hall was possible thanks to the sponsorship of Andrea Piersanti, president of the Instituto Luce, and Dario Piazzi, administrator delegate of Cinecittà Cinema.

Also collaborating in the project were architect Antonella Vassena and Italian enterprises such as Frau, which donated the stalls; Cinemeccania, which donated high-technology equipment; and One Team, which helped with design work.

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