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TV DRAMA / St. Augustine, a contemporary man

February Tue 02, 2010

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Last Saturday and on Monday the Italian state TV station showed a dramatization of the life of St. Augustine, a crucial figure in the history of not only Christianity but of universal culture as well, a complex and somewhat difficult task, if one wants to stay close to the historical facts and the spiritual adventure of this great man.

 

Ilsussidiario.net has interviewed the film director, the Canadian Christian Duguay, who pointed out the amazing modernity of St. Augustine and of his life that “[A]lthough set around the 4th and 5th century, is a very contemporary story that audiences will easily be able to relate to.” The Italian audience has shown itself to be in agreement, making the dramatization a complete success.

 

St. Augustine is very well known, but he is not a saint “of the people”, as St. Francis is for example. How have you made his story interesting for a large audience?

 

With St. Augustine, we are trying to reach a large Christian and non-Christian audience. What we’re presenting is the story of a man who is at once a victim of his own narcissism, oratory talents and whose charisma is such that sins and vices of life swirl all around him. It’s a journey filled with guilt, regret, insight and a miraculous turn of events that will lead to his spiritual conversion. It’s a personal story with an epic scope that is told in such an immediate and accessible way that people from all walks of life will hopefully appreciate it.

 

St. Augustine’s Confessions is the book most read in the world – even by non-Christians – after the Bible. What is the reason in your opinion?

 

The insights and concerns that Augustine expressed at the time have a resonance and immediacy that is as interesting to readers today as back then.

 

Did you already know the figure of St. Augustine? What was your view on him before shooting this film? After this film did you change your mind?

 

Having been brought up a Catholic, I was aware of him from a religious and spiritual side but also my father was a lawyer and that side of St. Augustine has also always intrigued me. I knew the philosopher and court orator who turned away from the narcissism and selfishness of his obvious talent and put it towards Christian faith. Researching and then presenting a man who has such a profound conversion had a definite spiritual impact on me and in a way, I felt a sort of divine guidance to present the audience a glimpse of that personal experience.

 

Is the film faithful to the real life of Augustine or some part of it has been fictionalized?

 

We’ve researched St. Augustine very carefully. Most of the characters are based on historical figures. For narrative purposes, what we’ve done is build a frame that helped us juggle an older St. Augustine on the verge of losing everything that he’s built by being attacked by the Vandals and in doing so looks back at his past through his writings. We used this as a narrative device and had to streamline some elements because of time. For example, we didn’t want to go into the fact that there were two Emperors at the time, one in the North and one in South and therefore just eluded to the one in Milan, where St. Augustine became the court orator. But it’s all largely true to fact.

 

What is the strong point of the film, the factor of a TV success?

 

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