On August 31 2012 Carlo Maria Martini died at the Alosianumin in Gallarate, in a room at the third floor of the Jesuit residence where the cardinal chose to spend the last years of his life, having left Jerusalem. At his side, Marco Garzonio, a psychotherapist, a writer, poet, columnist for the ‘Corriere della Sera’, and most of all a connoisseur of Martini’s thought, which he began writing about for the newspaper, eventually become a friend of the cardinal. With Garzonio, Ermanno Olmi made a film, Vedete, sono uno di voi (You see, I am one of you), the portrait of a man of faith and of his dialogue with different religions and with atheism, a man open to doubt up to the end. Shortly before dying he told his closest collaborators, who worried about the seriousness of his illness (he suffered from Parkinson’s): “If there is no afterlife, I am happy to have been with you”. Garzonio explains his thought with these words, “doubt is not skepticism without belief, but research at an extreme level of introspection and verification of the absolute”. 

Today, five years after the death of the cardinal born in Milan, the Italian Pavilion in Venice is hosting the presentation of the home video edition of Vedete, sono uno di voi, produced by Istituto Luce Cinecittà with Rai Cinema, that premiered last February in Milan’s Cathedral, and is also available in newsstands with the ‘Corriere della Sera’. The film is accompanied by a small ad precious volume published by Àncora Editrice, a collection of conversations between the director and Garzonio, a unique portrait of Martini depicted in the words of the two men who were close to him for many reasons. According to Padre Gilberto Zini, the director of the publishing house Ancora, Olmi portrayed Martini in the late phase of his thought. 

Roberto Cicutto, managing director and president of Luce Cinecittà, remembers a meeting between Olmi and Martini that took place at the time of the making of a film produced by him, Centochiodi (2007), with an exchange of emails and opinions. He explains one of the most important choices made for vedete, sono uno di voi: the reason why Olmi himself recites, with his hoarse voice, Martini’s words, descends from the experience of Il segreto del bosco vecchio (The secret of the old forest): “The film wasn’t met by the success it deserved, perhaps because of the voices given to the animals and the wind, dubbed in a Disney-like style. Ermanno thought of applying that experience to the film, doing without an actor and becoming the speaker for himself.”

Paolo Baldini, a journalist at Corriere della Sera, remembers the close relationship between the cardinal and the Milanese newspaper: “Martini was almost our manager, he wrote a column in which he dialogued with the readers, it was very popular, and he attended the editorial board meeting twice. On those occasions De Bartoli, the director, handed over his role and the cardinal spoke with expertise on all topics, even sports. He had a passion for journalism and if he hadn’t had the vocation for priesthood he would have rivaled Montanelli”. The newspaper’s tribute to him will continue until November, with the publication of 13 books, practically Martini’s opera omnia.  

Grazioso highlights the links between the events depicted in the movie and the ongoing transformation within the contemporary Catholic Church, with the election of Pope Bergoglio. “Martini himself stated that the Church was 200 years late”. Olmi is not in Venice, where an unpublished work by him dating to 1968, Il tentato sucidio nell’adoloscenza (attempted suicide in adolescents) is being presented today. “I think the two films –says Garzonio – are linked, but I think that especially vedete sums up Ermanno’s poetics”.

His search for simplicity, his frank spirituality one would say. And all his uncertainties. “One thing troubled me – Olmi confesses in the book – I had made a film on Pope John, E venne un uomo (Here came a man), soon after the death of Angelo Roncalli. The film was well received and I was appreciated, but it did not achieve the enthusiasm one would expect at the end of film that had been achieved with a lot of effort (...) in order to recount historic events that influenced men’s behaviors I had chosen Il giornale dell’anima (The soul’s journal) by Angelo Roncalli, an inner perspective, as a guide for the film.” Today, five years after Martini’s death, what remains of him? “His need to question the meaning of every event? The awareness that the world can change if we change first, his exhortation to become a mustard seed, a little flock, yeast...”.