The Oscar-winning actor and director wants St. Francis of Assisi to inspire us to love creation and our fellow human beings, and so he’s bringing “Francesco, Il cantico” to Italian TV. An interpretation of the Canticle of the Creatures seen exclusively on Paramount+ (and on Sky Cinema) from 8 December.
On December 7 Benigni met with Pope Francis to give him a set of DVDs of his new show. The friendly encounter was marked by a riotous energy and humor on the part of both. When Benigni joked that the pope was “lucent … emanating light”, the pope responded, “Don’t exaggerate!” Benigni joyfully replied, “I have to exaggerate, I’m happy to be here”.
“I will try to tell you about a real Francesco, with an extraordinary life that will amaze you…”. With these words Roberto Benigni introduces “Francis – The canticle”. The evening event is dedicated to the first poem of Italian literature. An ode and a prayer at the same time. That is to say, The Canticle of the Creatures of St. Francis of Assisi. An unmissable moment that can be streamed on Paramount+ from December 8th, through the platform itself or, for Sky Cinema subscribers, also on the satellite network.
In “Francesco, il Cantico” the actor and director will recount the figure of St. Francis of Assisi, starting from the man’s personal life, through unexpected curiosities and anecdotes, illustrating the conflicts, contradictions and evolutions that led him to become a saint and Patron of Italy.
“He is the character of the Middle Ages of whom we know the most”, continues Benigni, who in 2006 brought the Divine Comedy to a public that thanks to him, rediscovered the classic work by the Italian national poet, Dante. His one-man show toured all over Italy, and in 2009 also the U.S. It became a sensation that made The Divine Comedy the bestseller of that Christmas season, a notable achievement in a country not known for being avid readers. He now hopes to repeat that feat by popularizing St. Francis.
“He was so fascinating that everyone wrote about him… He was the greatest shaper of souls in the history of mankind”, Benigni says.
“In the midst of so much violence and greed, he demonstrates to everyone that a new world is possible: Francis is carrying out a real revolution. Francis is not the poor man of Assisi, he has a fiery gaze on the world. Francesco who stands out above all, Francesco who is not afraid. And everyone follows him, this is Francesco’s great miracle”, continues Roberto Benigni.
Following the same model of his Dante readings, after introducing the figure of Francesco, the actor and director of Life is Beautiful (1998) continues with an exegesis of Il Cantico delle Creature–also known as Cantico di Frate Sole. The masterpiece of San Francesco, composed in 1224, is the first and oldest poetic text of Italian literature of which the author is known. A prayer permeated by a positive vision of creation, understood as a reflection of the Creator’s image. And from a sense of brotherhood between humans and nature.
The Canticle is a great praise to the Creator and to the beauty of nature, as Benigni recounts in Francesco, Il Cantico. “It is the first poem written in Italian and not in Latin. The beginning of our Poetry that will become the most important in the world. Italian poetry begins with Francesco. And Francesco also composed the music”.
Benigni’s enthusiasm is contagious as he explains, “The Canticle was revolutionary, because it praised creation. It was the first time, an absolute novelty. It was a text against the trend. Francesco’s charm is that he makes us understand that there are no soulless creatures on earth. He makes us feel that even grass, earth, water, wind, and stones have a soul. He has given new value to the mystery of creation. An invitation to join the nobility of the world.”
It’s a vision that resonates as strongly today as it did in his.