(AFP) Italian director Marco Bellocchio on Thursday condemned the Catholic Church’s interference in politics after the premiere of his new controversial film about a high-profile euthanasia case.
“As long as Catholics can condition Italian political life, things are not going to change,” said the 72-year-old Bellocchio, whose “Bella Addormentata” (“Dormant Beauty”) is one of 18 films vying for this year’s Golden Lion.
“It is impossible to pass a law on end-of-life decisions, even one that is respectful,” the director told a group of journalists after some centre-right politicians and clergymen voiced strong criticism of the film.
Bellocchio’s plot revolves around three fictional characters in the momentous days leading up to the death of Eluana Englaro at the age of 38.
Englaro had been in a coma for 17 years and her family won the right in court to switch off life support, a ruling that unleashed a fierce backlash.
“Italy tore itself apart over the fate of this poor young woman. There was a lot of media tension, a clash between Catholics and lay people,” he said.
The Catholic Church waged a campaign against the suspension of life support for Englaro, with support from then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who tried to rush an emergency law through parliament to stop Englaro’s family.
Three years later “the problem has not been resolved,” said Bellocchio, pointing out that a draft law on end-of-life decisions is stuck in parliament.
A small demonstration at the Venice film festival drew around 50 people, who distributed pamphlets saying Bellocchio had “killed Eluana a second time.”
“They have the right to do it (but) I think they represent a tiny minority of the Catholic world, where there are also more open positions,” he said.
Bellocchio chose not to portray the Englaro family directly but to explore it through the eyes of a mother (Isabelle Huppert) whose daughter is also in a coma and a senator (Toni Servillo) who is called on to vote for the law.
The third central character is a drug addict who is desperate to kill herself but is rescued by a doctor and eventually chooses to live.