01-02-2006 - Traces, n.2

Like in a film

The Look
of Barabbas

by Pedro Sarubbi

I have always been an unusual guy, full of great emotions and great contradictions. I preferred adventure stories to toys, and rather than football games in the yard, I preferred the company of my grandfather (a war hero) or the tales of the old fishermen in the port. Reality was oppressive for me and I took refuge in fantasy. This led me with natural ease to become an actor from my earliest years. Unfortunately, as I gradually became used to the routine of my profession, I lost contact with the research and the quality of life, and became more and more cynical and superficial. Mel Gibson saw me in the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and offered me the part of Barabbas in the film The Passion. I was concerned about how big a part I would have, how much they would pay me, and how much publicity it would bring me. I was unhappy to find that Barabbas had nothing to say, something really humiliating for actors of a certain standing. At the end of the screen tests, I went to Mel Gibson and told him I was enthusiastic to work with him, but couldn’t accept a non-speaking part. He took me to one side in a fatherly way and explained that this will be a beautiful and very important film and that my dumb Barabbas will be more important for me and for the film than any other speaking role in an ordinary film. “You will use the power of your look, like all the actors in this film!” he told me. We did the filming and I went on complaining. During the third week of filming, when I came down the first stairway of the Sanhedrin, my eyes met the eyes of the actor Jim Caviezel, and it was like an electric shock, a great emotion came over me, and I carried that wonder with me and my life began to change. I have the feeling that something really happened and that look was there, but it was really between Pedro and Christ. It was something enormous and it sent me into complete confusion. Why did it happen? This question keeps coming back to me. I produced the Passion on the stage, trying to analyze it and understand, but I am unable to do it alone. All my interviews are full of these doubts; what happened in that look? One day, a priest, Fr. Gabriele Mangiarotti, called me on the phone and asked me to dinner in the parish of Brugherio to speak about this look. I went and there were three hundred people there, and we began to talk. Everyone wanted to know, to understand–I want to ask myself, but they are all asking me. After the talk we began to eat. At the table are Fr. Gianni Calchi Novati and a group of nice people in their forties. I got talking with one of them about my doubts. His name was Ermes, and he said, “If you like, come to School of Community with us; maybe it will help you understand.” We agreed on the first date. That was the beginning of my journey of encounter with Fr. Giussani, not meeting him but enjoying his writings, his answers to my questions in his books and in the companionship of his people. Ermes spoke of Fr. Giussani’s passion for a person’s look and how he searched for it in every sacred image. Fr. Gabriele taught me the buoyancy of being in peace; Fr. Gianni with his scolding showed me the way. They were all close to me. Then, with them I saw the huge pain of Fr. Giussani’s death. I realized I was suffering more by sharing their loss than for the actual departure of someone whom I had known only through his writings, but at the funeral, in the cold and freezing weather, in the Cathedral Square, I became aware of my new condition. I was serene: finally after years, I was surrounded by so many people who I loved and who loved others and they were all there, united by the sorrow, firm in love. To feel myself part of those people made me understand how I, too, was touched by Fr. Giussani and how great a part he had in my spiritual rebirth.