Venice film relives euthanasia case that split Italy

Wed Sep 5, 2012 11:02am EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - A 2009 right-to-die case that deeply split public opinion in Catholic Italy is at the center of a new film exploring the themes of euthanasia, suicide and religious faith that is vying for top prize at the Venice festival.

"Bella Addormentata", which translates as Sleeping Beauty, is set in the final days of Eluana Englaro, a 38-year old woman who had been in a coma since a car crash 17 years earlier and became a household name in Italy when her father decided to suspend artificial nutrition.

Mixing real TV footage and fictional characters, director Marco Bellocchio recreates the heated debate that surrounded Englaro's death.

Outside the clinic where she was hospitalized, pro-life activists clashed with euthanasia supporters; inside parliament, lawmakers traded insults as then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tried to ram through a bill that would have forced doctors to resume feeding her through a tube.

Englaro died as senators discussed the bill in a late-night session.

Against that backdrop, the film's four main characters offer their diverse and conflicting points of view on end-of-life and free will issues and the moral dilemmas they raise.

While the film is clearly more sympathetic towards secular opinions, Bellocchio said he had deliberately avoided taking a firm stance by giving voice to a variety of perspectives.

"My ideas are certainly different from those of some of the characters in the film, but I can find something to relate to in all of them," he told reporters after a press screening in Venice.   Continued...

Director Marco Bellocchio (L) and cast member Toni Servillo pose during the photocall of the movie "Bella addormentata" (Dormant Beauty) at the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile