As Estátuas Também Morrem


Entendimentos do Cinema


Juventude em Marcha (2006).

O n.º 174 da revista Vértice acabou de sair e inclui um ensaio meu com o título “Entendimentos do Cinema: A Linguagem Analítica e Crítica para Daniel Frampton e David Bordwell”. Na sua base está uma palestra que apresentei na Universidade NOVA de Lisboa e na Universidade do Minho em 2009.

Francesco, Jester of God


The Flowers of St. Francis.

The literal translation of The Flowers of St. Francis (Francesco, giullare di Dio, 1950), directed by Roberto Rossellini, is “Francis, God’s Jester”. The English title is connected with one of the sources for the film, Brother Ugolino’s The Little Flowers of Saint Francis,[1] a book on St. Francis and the first Franciscans composed at the end of the 14th century. The other source is a volume on the life of Brother Ginepro, who is a central figure in this portrayal of Franciscan spirituality. In fact, Ginepro is the one traditionally called “the jester of the Lord”, not Francis. His energetic altruism often blinds him to the consequences of his actions, such as cutting the feet of a pig for a sick brother thinking that the animal wanted to help. He has wild ideas, like cooking enough food for two weeks in order to go preach. He does things that seem foolish, like giving his tunic to someone in need or letting someone else rob him of his habit, after Francis tells him not to give away the only piece of garment that he possesses.

Rossellini and his co-writer Federico Fellini, with the contribution of two priests, Félix A. Morlion OP, and Antonio Lisandri OFM, connect the Franciscans’ devoutness with the joy of life. It is as if the friars (who were real friars) are constantly daydreaming, dreaming without stepping out of reality — which means that the film is a fruitful encounter and dialogue between Rossellini’s and Fellini’s cinematic sensibilities. Worshipping God, celebrating the marvels of the world, and working and living together as a classless, brotherly community are one and the same. This delighted celebration involves paying attention and being surprised by nature as well as by the people they come across. It entails caring for them.

The Flowers of St. Francis was released in the same year as Stromboli (1950). Both were generally badly received at the time and re-evaluated years after. The film presents a series of episodes, following the usual discontinuous structure of Rossellini’s films that sequence intense slices of life. In the message that accompanied the release, the director discusses what he calls “the spiritual itinerary” of his films. He confesses that Germania anno zero (Germany Year Zero, 1948), the last tome of his war trilogy, was a world that had “reached the limits of despair”. Stromboli was the rediscovery of faith. After this film, the filmmaker wanted to look for the greatest realisation of the Christian ideal. He found it in St. Francis and he wanted to capture the simplicity, innocence, and delight that emanated from his spirit.

In a short text, Martin Scorsese claims that he has never seen the life of a saint “treated on film with so little solemnity and so much warmth”.[2] Scorsese notices that reverence is a usual problem in the films that portray saints, because it is “at odds with the way the saints must have felt about themselves”.[3] In fact, the persons who are considered saints were simple and modest. They did not saw themselves as perfectly virtuous. Rossellini proposes therefore a neo-realist portrayal of Francis and his friends, including Sister Clare, a female companion. Such an approach influenced Pier Paolo Pasolini and his Il vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964). We may say that Pasolini looks at Jesus in the same way that Rossellini had looked at Francis.


[1] Ugolino Boniscambi, The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, ed. Jon M. Sweeney (Orleans, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011).

[2] Martin Scorsese, “A Personal Appreciation” (2005), par. 1,

[3] Ibid., par. 2.



There is a new academic journal on television series. It is called SERIES: International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, an editorial project between the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the University of Bologna. I am honoured of be a member of the Scientific Committee. The first issue is available here for viewing and download.

False Movements