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Augustine of Hippo (1972)

Agostino d'Ippona (original title)
This biography tells the life story of Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, a North African region during the last years of the Roman Empire. The film details Augustine's struggle to maintain ... See full summary »




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dary Berkani ...
Virgilio Gazzolo ...
Cesare Barbetti ...
Bruno Cattaneo ...
Leonardo Fioravanti ...
Dannunzio Papini ...
Giudice romano
Giuseppe Mannajuolo ...
Severo (as Bepi Mannajuolo)
Livio Galassi ...
Fabio Garriba ...
Giuseppe Alotta ...
Pietro Fumelli ...
Giovanni Sabbatini ...
Valentino Macchi ...
Ciro Ippolito ...
Filippo De Gara ...
Crispino (as Filippo Degara)


This biography tells the life story of Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, a North African region during the last years of the Roman Empire. The film details Augustine's struggle to maintain religious decorum in a civilization on the verge of plunging into the Dark Ages.

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4th century | See All (1) »


Biography | History





Release Date:

25 October 1972 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Augustine of Hippo  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

The embodied faith
27 April 2014 | by See all my reviews

I come to Rossellini's portrait films incidentally after puzzling for several months over the ways we devise to push against our limits of sense, the notions and models we construct to expand understanding. It isn't an academic interest; the quest is for clarity over the difficult questions, description that preserves the ambiguities.

The first step is to be placed in history, this means to inhabit a life in whose horizon it begins to form. Augustine lived through tumultuous times; Rome was the known world, the world worth knowing, and in his lifetime he saw the sack of Rome by the Goths, a devastating event, and all sorts of trouble in a church that less than a hundred years ago had faced its harshest persecution and had only been sanctioned a few decades prior.

To inhabit this life means to resist knowing after the fact that Rome would soon end and the church would take over as its own empire, to experience this all as uncertain and new. A lot of it is talked, about the empire not being what it was, overall however it creates a powerful picture of people in a small African town (this is the Roman African province) trying to hold onto a small patch of certainty as distant structures collapse around them. News of the fall of Rome appear as a messenger rides into town at dawn and posts it on a wall, as it would be in the remote province. It's only later when refugees from there show up that we hear more about it. Here we find Rossellini's conception of history then—it's not an excuse to climb walls, it's why the Vandal siege, the historic climax of Augustine's life, is omitted. It's an opportunity to formulate a response, a worldview—they are moral works then in a lucid sense.

The second thing is to ask what does that certainty consist of, what response to the collapse? Many of us will find more difficult entry here than Socrates; it preaches grace and virtue, that's fine, the stumbling block with the Christian message is the superstructure of meaning, such as the sermon here about a divine city of god. Entwined with the Christian call however is the Socratic one for reason, beauty in moral truth.

The third is what we miss about Augustine but find out about Rossellini. The real Augustine was both more medieval and more modern than we're shown here, the fiery Augustine of sin and predestination and prescient Augustine of time as memory are both absent and he's instead rounded as a teacher of deep principle and practical response.

What we miss is the Augustine for whom the soulsearch for god was a search for the mind that attempts to know god. His most known work that traces the searching is an autobiography, the first of its kind ever. If you ever read it, note that his first apprehension of god (inspired by mystical Greeks) is a mind that rises above thought to rest in the presence of itself; this later propels separate chapters on experienced time and memory as space. (It's involving in general though; at one point he ruminates about the moral impact of media, Greek myths), in another he worries about the ills of peer pressure).

This can be seen to be Rossellini's own response then, not letting his Augustine stray too much on metaphysics as a way of drawing attention to what matters; practicing the ethos in daily life.

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