Italy has 105 Centers in the National Librarian System that refer to almost 6,400 libraries and cultural institutes belonging to various bodies or private citizens.
However, unlike in other countries, cinema has explored very few of them.
In “Angels and Demons” (2009) while Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, attempts to solve a mystery in the Vatican Library he ends up destroying whole rooms full of books of incalculable value.
However the scenes were not staged in the Vatican Library which is as little accessible to film sets as it is to us common mortals, but the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome.
Twenty years earlier Harrison Ford was in Venice playing the role of Indiana Jones looking for clues about the Holy Grail. The mystery is revealed in the form of a mark engraved on a sarcophagus in the catacombs of a deconsecrated church that had been converted into a library.
The movie mentions the Biblioteca Marciana but the exterior is that of the Church of Santa Barnaba. A panoramic shot shows us the library hall from a height but it is impossible to visit the places where the sequence was filmed because they were recreated in the studio.
The same goes for the library described by Umberto Eco in “The Name of the rose” which was reconstructed for Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1986 movie as well as for the 2018 TV series.
Mario Martone restores the library’s role as a place of study when, in 2014, he helps us experience “Leopardi” by entering into the house- library of the Leopardi family in Recanati and the rooms of the private library of the Duchess Elena d’Aosta inside the “Vittorio Emanuele III” in Naples, the latter already having been chosen by the director in 1998 for “Rehearsals for War”.
In “The Garden of the Finzi Continis” by Vittorio De Sica (1970), the library becomes at the same time both the last rampart of a freedom denied and a refuge against external barbarities: in Ferrara in 1938 Giorgio, a Jewish student, is invited to leave the place where he studies (we return to the Biblioteca Angelica) and the Finzi- Contini family allow him to use the library in their villa.
The interiors used are those of Palazzo Primoli in Rome which also provides the backdrop for a scene in “Viaggio della sposa” by Sergio Rubini (1997). Whether one is looking for adventure, study or simply peace and quiet, libraries continue to radiate an aura of knowledge mixed with respect that, in the age of the Internet, it is difficult to find on the web.
A heritage of hidden treasures which our productions find it hard to enter.