restricted access Vigilanti Cura: On Motion Pictures (Vatican City, 1936)

This manifesto, written by the Italian Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, is one of the most influential film manifestos ever written, accomplishing nothing less than changing the course of North American and, to a lesser extent, Western European cinema. One reason that Achille Ratti does not appear in most film histories is that he wrote under a nom de plume and is much better known as Pope Pius XI. Vigilante Cura is a papal encyclical on the motion picture in praise of the arrival of the Legion of Decency and deploring the sinful nature of most cinema. These edicts determined to a large degree the kinds of images that would be seen on American (and therefore world) screens. Also, one should not underestimate its impact on European cinemas, as both Vittorio De Sica’s Landri di biciclette (Italy, 1949) and Roberto Rossellini’s L’amore (Italy, 1948) were attacked by Catholics in light of this encyclical and the movements that sprang from it. Vigilante Cura also outlined the moral implications that watching “condemned” films had for one’s soul. Like the far better known modernist manifestos, this text was a call to arms—though in this case for devout, right-wing Catholics.