To The Unknown God

Festival Closing Film

Dying, Death and Suffering is not the most sexy of themes for a moving save for the machos who enjoy genre the likes of Die Hards. Al Dio Ignoto (To the unknown God) under the direction of Rodolfo Bisatti explores the personal tragedy of Lucia; a palliative nurse who lost her own daughter Anna to leukemia and drowns herself into the work at a hospice. Her son Gabriel struggles to find his own coping mechanism to the loss not only of his sister but also mother. While at the hospice an eccentric retired professor and patient Giulio Redetti shows Lucia a way to continue to live while dealing with his own mortality. At the center of the movie is a poem written by Fredrich Nietzsche in his graduation speech at Pforta School titled “To an Unknown God”. 

Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran pastor that had died when Nietzsche was at a young age and was a calamity from which Nietzsche never recovered. His famous thought-image “God is dead” was a transfiguration of that painful memory. Yet deep in his heart, he remained faithful to Christian ideals.

The movie explores the issue with rich symbolism, and provides space and moments for reflection and contemplation. It provides some insights into how human struggle with loss and our own mortality. Through the experience of patients at a hospice, we learn about our own humanity and what is important in life. As a healthcare professional working in a hospice, I have never heard from patients telling me that they regret not making more money, or getting that prestigious job. It is always about relationships; of family and significant others, reminiscing of the shared joy and sorrow of an earthly sojourn. The simple experience of sweating brings a sense of being alive.

Many have wondered how a loving God can allow human tragedy and suffering at the same time? This question have driven people to run away from faith or towards faith or simply ignore faith. If it is true of Nietzsche, Lucia, Gabriel and Guilio on the question of suffering, it is certainly true for us. Unless we make that space to ponder and reflect, to call out to this “Unknown God”, we may well get an answer? Or a god who will become known to us?  

As for the rest of the movie, it is not all doom and gloom. There are light-hearted and ‘awe’ moments that make the darkest moments into glimmer of light and hope, peering beyond. Perhaps, these are the moments that matter. C’est la vie and it is good.


 Cybulska Eva (2016), Nietzsche Contra God: A Battle Within, Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, 16:1-2, 195-206

Contributed by:

Timothy Liu

Chief Executive, Dover Park Hospice